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The Spatial Turn 

Interdisciplinary perspectives 

Routledge Studies in Human Geography 

The Spatial Turn 

Across the disciplines, the study of space has undergone a profound and sustained 
resurgence. Space, place, mapping, and geographical imaginations have become 
commonplace topics in a variety of analytical fields in part because globalization 
has accentuated the significance of location. While this transformation has led to 
a renaissance in human geography, it also has manifested itself in the humanities 
and other social sciences. The purpose of this book is not to announce that space 
is significant, which by now is well known, but to explore how space is analyzed 
by a variety of disciplines, to compare and contrast these approaches, identify 
commonalities, and understand how and why differences appear. 

The volume includes works by 13 scholars from a variety of geographical 
regions and disciplines. All have published about how space is used, represented, 
and given meaning in their respective fields. The chapters combine up-to-date lit- 
erature reviews concerning the role of space in each discipline and several offer 
original empirical analyses. The introduction surveys the development of the spa- 
tial turn across the fields under consideration. Some chapters are concerned with 
Geography; others explore the role of space in contemporary Anthropology, 
English and Hispanic studies, Sociology, Religion, Political Science, Film, and 
Cultural Studies. 

Despite frequent reference to the spatial turn, this is the first volume to explicitly 
address how theory and practice concerning space are used in a variety of fields 
from diverse conceptual perspectives. This book will appeal to everyone conduct- 
ing conceptual and theoretical research on space, not simply in Geography, but in 
related fields as well. 

Barney Warf is Professor of Geography at the University of Kansas. His 
research and teaching interests lie within the broad domain of human geography, 
particularly economic and political issues. 

Santa Arias is Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Kansas. She 
specializes in the literatures of colonial Latin America and interdisciplinary 
approaches to the study of literature and culture. 

Routledge studies in human geography 

This series provides a forum for innovative, vibrant, and critical debate within 
Human Geography. Titles will reflect the wealth of research which is taking 
place in this diverse and ever-expanding field. 

Contributions will be drawn from the main sub-disciplines and from innova- 
tive areas of work which have no particular sub-disciplinary allegiances. 


1. A Geography of Islands 

Small island insularity 

Stephen A. Royle 

2. Citizenships, Contingency and 
the Countryside 

Rights, culture, land and the 


Gavin Parker 

6. Mapping Modernities 
Geographies of Central and 
Eastern Europe 1920-2000 

Alan Dingsdale 

7. Rural Poverty 

Marginalisation and exclusion in 
Britain and the United States 
Paul Milbourne 

3. The Differentiated Countryside 

Jonathan Murdoch, Philip Lowe, 
Neil Ward and Terry Marsden 

4. The Human Geography of 
East Central Europe 

David Turnock 


8. Poverty and the Third Way 

Colin C. Williams and Jan 

9. Ageing and Place 

Edited by Gavin J. Andrews 
and David R. Phillips 

Imagined Regional 

Integration and sovereignty 
in the global south 

James D Sidaway 

10. Geographies of 
Commodity Chains 

Edited by Alex Hughes and 
Suzanne Reimer 

11. Queering Tourism 

Paradoxical performances at gay 
pride parades 
Lynda T. Johnston 

12. Cross-Continental 
Food Chains 

Edited by Niels Fold and Bill 

13. Private Cities 

Edited by Georg Glasze, Chris 
Webster and Klaus Frantz 

14. Global Geographies of Post 
Socialist Transition 

Tassilo Herrschel 

15. Urban Development in 
Post-Reform China 

Fulong Wu, Jiang Xu and Anthony 
Gar-On Yeh 

16. Rural Governance 

International perspectives 
Edited by Lynda Cheshire, 
Vaughan Higgins and Geoffrey 

17. Global Perspectives on Rural 
Childhood and Youth 

Young rural lives 

Edited by Ruth Panelli, Samantha 

Punch, and Elsbeth Robson 

18. World City Syndrome 

Neoliberalism and inequality 
in Cape Town 
David A. McDonald 

19. Exploring Post Development 

Aram Ziai 

20. Family Farms 

Harold Brookfield and Helen 

21. China on the Move 

Migration, the State, and the 

C. Cindy Fan 

22. Participatory Action Research 
Approaches and Methods 

Connecting People, Participation 
and Place 

Sara Kindon, Rachel Pain and 
Mike Kesby 

23. Time-Space Compression 

Historical Geographies 
Barney Warf 

24. Sensing Cities 

Monica Degen 

25. International Migration and 

Allan Williams and Vladimir 

26. The Spatial Turn 

Interdisciplinary Perspectives 
Edited by Barney Warf and Santa 

Not yet published: 

27. Design Economies and the 
Changing World Economy 

Innovation, Production and 


John Bryson and Crete Rustin 

28. Whose Urban Renaissance? 30. Critical Reflections on Regional 

An International Comparison of Competitiveness 
Urban Regeneration Policies Gillian Bristow 

Libby Porter and Katie Shaw 

29. Tourism Geography 

A New Synthesis Second Edition 
Stephen Williams 

The Spatial Turn 

Interdisciplinary perspectives 

Edited by 
Barney Warf 

Santa Arias 

ij Routledge 

Taylor &. Francis Croup 

First published 2009 
by Routledge 

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon 0X14 4RN 

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada 
by Routledge 

270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, 
an informa business 

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© 2009 Selection and editorial matter: Barney Warf and Santa Arias, 
individual chapters; the contributors 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced 
or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other 
means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and 
recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without 
permission in writing from the publishers. 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 
The spatial turn: interdisciplinary perspectives/[edited by] 
Barney Warf and Santa Arias, 
p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references. 

1. Geography — Philosophy. 2. Geography — Social aspects. 3. Human 
geography. I. Warf, Barney, 1956 — II. Arias, Santa. 
G70.S685 2008 

910.01— dc22 2008010331 

rnnnnurnn- i 1 1 1 1 i nm i iiiiiii urrnnrn nn 

ISBN10: 0^15-77573-6 (hbk) 
ISBN10: 0-203-89130-9 (ebk) 

ISBN13: 978-0-415-77573-1 (hbk) 
ISBN13: 978-0-203-89130-8 (ebk) 


List of illustrations 
Notes on contributors 

1 Introduction: the reinsertion of space in the 
humanities and social sciences 


2 Taking space personally 


3 Spacing movements: the turn to cartographies and 
mapping practices in contemporary social movements 


4 From surfaces to networks 


5 Geography, post-communism, and comparative politics 


6 Retheorizing global space in sociology: towards a 
new kind of discipline 


7 Sex and the modern city: English studies and the 
spatial turn 


8 The geopolitics of historiography from Europe 
to the Americas 


viii Contents 

9 "To see a world in a grain of sand": space and 

place on an ethnographical journey in Colombia 137 


10 Spatiality and religion 157 


11 The cultural production of space in colonial Latin 
America: from visualizing difference to the circulation 

of knowledge 173 


12 Documentary as a space of intuition: Luis BunuePs 

Land Without Bread 192 






3.1 Bureau d' Etudes war times chronicles: poles in the 

reorganization of the terrestrial production line 49 


3.1 Entering the official liberation zone (root cause) 39 

3.2 Normopathic complex 46 

3.3 World monitoring 47 

3.4 Inklings of autonomy 48 

3.5 Mapa de la Sevilla Global 50 

3.6 Cartographies of the Straits of Gibraltar 51 

3.7 "Que se vayan todos" 55 

8. 1 "Map of South America," by Thomas Kitchin 131 

8.2 "Mexico of New Spain, in which the Motions of Cortes 

may be traced," by Thomas Kitchin 133 

8.3 "Mapa del Nuevo-mundo," by Tomas Lopez Enguidanos 134 
9.1 The last forest of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria 143 

11.1 Woodcuts prints from Epistola de insulis in mari Indico 

nuper inuentes (1494) 174 

1 1 .2 Mine of Gualgayoc as depicted by the bishop of 
Trujillo del Peru in his collection of watercolor 

illustrations of his diocese, 1782-5 180 

1 1.3 "Ficoides peruvina" and "Elichrysum Americanum" 
as portrayed by Louis Feuillee in his expedition to 

South America, 1 709-1 1 181 

1 1 .4 "Map of the courses of the rivers Huallaga and Ucayali 
in the Pampa of Sacramento," composed by Fr. Manuel 
Soberviela and engraved by Joseph Vazquez 

in Lima, 1791 185 

12.1 A regional map locating Las Hurdes 197 

12.2 Mountain range of Las Hurdes 198 

x Illustrations 

12.3 Seventeenth-century religious buildings 199 

12.4 Dead donkey covered by bees 200 

12.5 Falling goat 201 

12.6 Barefoot children at school 202 

12.7 Calligraphy lesson 202 

12.8 Filmmaker's hands holding girl's chin 204 

12.9 Sick girl and member of filming team 206 


Santa Arias, Spanish, University of Kansas. She is the author of Retorica, 
historia y polemica: Bartolome de las Casas y la tradition intelectual renacen- 
tista (2001) and has co-edited Mapping Colonial Spanish America (2002) and 
Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Bartolome de las Casas (2008). She is 
completing the book Spaces of Conversion: Writing and Mapping the Spiritual 
Conquest in Colonial Latin America. Her research is devoted to the role of space 
in the material and discursive understanding of Latin American colonial societies. 

Sebastian Cobarrubias, Geography, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. 
He is a Ph.D. candidate in Geography. His dissertation is entitled Navigating a 
Changing 'Europe 'from Below: Activist Cartographies by Social Movements in 
'Spain '. His publications include chapters in An Atlas of Radical Cartography 
(2007) and Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigation, Collective 
Theorization (2006). Helped to co-found the prolific Counter Cartographies 
Collective at UNC-CH. 

John Corrigan, Edwin Scott Gaustad Professor of Religion and Professor of 
History. He is the author or co-author of a dozen books on religion in America, 
the history of monotheism, religion and colonialism, and religion and emotion. 
He recently has published The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion (2008) 
and co-authored with Lynn Neal, Religious Intolerance in America: A 
Documentary History, which is forthcoming from the University of North 
Carolina Press. 

Harry F. Dahms, Sociology, University of Tennessee. He has edited the volume 

Transformations of Capitalism: Economy, Society and the State in Modern Times 
(2000) for the Main Trends in the Modern World series and has served as guest 
editor for the annual Current Perspectives in Social Theory since 2006. In addi- 
tion, he has published many articles in distinguished journals in his field. At pres- 
ent, Dahms is working on the book manuscript, Delivering Society: A Dynamic 
Theory of Modern Capitalism. 

Pamela K. Gilbert, English, University of Florida. She is author of Disease, 
Desire and the Body in Victorian Women s Popular Novels (1997) and Mapping 

xii Contributors 

the Victorian Social Body (2004). In addition, she published an edited collection 
entitled Imagined Londons (2002); co-edited Beyond Sensation: Mary Elizabeth 
Br addon in Context (1999), and is series editor of SUNY Press series, Studies in 
the Long Nineteenth Century. She is currently working on a book on the con- 
struction of the social body and cholera in England, 1832-66. 

Jeffrey Kopstein, Political Science, University of Toronto. He has research 
interests in comparative politics, historical political economy, and European pol- 
itics. He published The Politics of Economic Decline in East Germany, 1945- 
1989 (1997), and co-edited Comparative Politics: Identities, Institutions, and 
Interests in a Changing Global Order (2000). Recent articles have appeared in 
World Politics (1996, 2000); Political Theory (2001); German Politics and 
Society (2002); Comparative Politics (2003); and Slavic Review (2003); Theory 
and Society (2005); and Canadian Journal of Political Science (2005). 

Mariselle Melendez, Latin American Literature, University of Illinois, Urbana- 
Champaign. Her publications in the field of Latin American colonial literature 
and culture include Raza, genero e hibridez en El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes 
(1999), the edited volume Mapping Colonial Spanish America (2002), and two 
dozen articles in prestigious journals in Hispanic and Latin American cultural 
studies. Her research interests encompass the representation of space and bodies 
as they interconnect with race, ethnicity, and gender issues in colonial studies. 

John Pickles, Earl N. Phillips Distinguished Chair of International Studies, 
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He authored and edited many books 
and articles, including State and Society in Post-Socialist Economies (2007); 
A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping, and the Geo-Coded World 
(2004); Environmental Transitions: Post-Communist Transformations and 
Ecological Defense in Central and Eastern Europe (2000, with Petr Pavlinek); 
Theorising Transition: The Political Economy of Post-Communist Transformations 
(1998 with Adrian Smith); Ground Truth: The Social Implications of Geographical 
Information Systems (1995); Commonplaces, Humanism, and Geography (1989); 
and Phenomenology, Science, and Geography: Space and the Human Sciences 
(1985). Helped to co-found the prolific Counter Cartographies Collective at 

Joan Ramon Resina, Spanish, Stanford University. He specializes in literature 
and cultural theory. His books include La busqueda del Grial (1988), Un sueno 
de piedra (1990), Los usos del cldsico (1991), El cadaver en la cocina (1997), El 
postnacionalisme en el mapa global (2005) and Barcelona s Vocation of 
Modernity (2008). He has edited six volumes and published one hundred articles 
and book chapters. 

Margarita Serje, Anthropology, Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). She 
specializes in anthropological thought, development, globalization, and urban 

Contributors xiii 

spaces and has published numerous books, including most recently El Reves de 
la Nation: Territorios salvajes, fronteras y tierras de nadie (2005) and Palabras 
para desarmar: Una aproximacion critica al vocabulario del reconocimiento 
cultural en Colombia (2002). 

Edward W. Soja, Urban Planning, UCLA, distinguished scholar who has writ- 
ten extensively concerning poststructuralism in geography and the spatial turn. 
He wrote several highly influential volumes, including Postmodern Geographies 
(1989), Thirdspace (1996), and Postmetropolis (2000). In addition, he co-edited 
with A. J. Scott, The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the 
Twentieth Century (1996). 

Barney Warf, Geography, University of Kansas. He has a long-standing interest 
in the spatiality of social theory and political economy, has published over ninety 
refereed articles in geography journals, and has co-authored and/or co-edited 
eight books, including most recently The Encyclopedia of Human Geography 
(2006) and Time-Space Compression: Historical Geographies (2008). Much of 
his work concerns services and information technologies. 


Many people have helped in various ways to put this volume together. The 
editors would like to thank the ten contributors who produced such provocative 
essays, in particular Edward Soja for his inspirational scholarship that elevated 
space and place to the center of thought in the humanities and social sciences. We 
sincerely hope that this volume is useful to all of those working on issues of spa- 
tiality wherever they might be. The spatial turn is surely not confined to the dis- 
ciplines represented here and we recognize that there are many unsung heroes 
who shed new light on space in their respective fields. 

Our gratitude goes to Andrew Mould and the staff at Routledge who supported 
and guided this project from the beginning. We also would like to acknowledge 
the following institutions and individuals who have given permission to repro- 
duce images and graphics: Lucy Patrick and the Robert Manning Strozier Library 
Special Collections at Florida State University; Rare Book and Manuscript 
Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Patrimonio Nacional 
de Espana (Biblioteca del Real Palacio de Madrid); Fundacion Pro-Sierra Nevada 
de Santa Marta; and Professor Tom Conley (Harvard University). 

Finally, we deeply appreciate the support and encouragement of our families, 
friends, colleagues and graduate students. Our best wishes go to all of you. 

1 Introduction: the reinsertion of 
space into the social sciences and 

Barney Warf and Santa Arias 

The geographical imagination is far too pervasive and important a fact of 
intellectual life to be left alone to geographers. 

(Harvey 1995: 161) 

Human geography over the last two decades has undergone a profound concep- 
tual and methodological renaissance that has transformed it into one of the most 
dynamic, innovative and influential of the social sciences. The discipline, which 
long suffered from a negative popular reputation as a trivial, purely empirical 
field with little analytical substance, has moved decisively from being an 
importer of ideas from other fields to an exporter, and geographers are increas- 
ingly being read by scholars in the humanities and other social sciences. As a 
result of the rebirth in scholarship in geography, other disciplines have increas- 
ingly come to regard space as an important dimension to their own areas of 
inquiry. Cosgrove (1999: 7), for example, argues that "A widely acknowledged 
'spatial turn' across arts and sciences corresponds to post-structuralist agnosti- 
cism about both naturalistic and universal explanations and about single-voiced 
historical narratives, and to the concomitant recognition that position and context 
are centrally and inescapably implicated in all constructions of knowledge." 
Recent works in the fields of literary and cultural studies, sociology, political 
science, anthropology, history, and art history have become increasingly spatial 
in their orientation. From various perspectives, they assert that space is a social 
construction relevant to the understanding of the different histories of human 
subjects and to the production of cultural phenomena. In some ways, this trans- 
formation is expressed in simple semantic terms, i.e., the literal and metaphorical 
use and assumptions of "space," "place," and "mapping" to denote a geographic 
dimension as an essential aspect of the production of culture. In other ways, how- 
ever, the spatial turn is much more substantive, involving a reworking of the very 
notion and significance of spatiality to offer a perspective in which space is every 
bit as important as time in the unfolding of human affairs, a view in which geog- 
raphy is not relegated to an afterthought of social relations, but is intimately 
involved in their construction. Geography matters, not for the simplistic and 
overly used reason that everything happens in space, but because where things 
happen is critical to knowing how and why they happen. 

2 Barney Warf and Santa Arias 

This volume charts this rise in spatial scholarship across several disciplines. 
We seek to explore how geographers have influenced other fields of scholarship 
and the many forms in which geography has motivated scholars to think spatially. 
With space and place at the center of the analytical agenda, geographical thought 
has arguably played a major role in helping to facilitate interdisciplinary inquiry 
that offers a richer, more contextualized understanding of human experience, 
social relations and the production of culture. Our goal in bringing together these 
authors and essays is to provide the reader with a sense of how space has entered 
into a variety of domains of knowledge. To be sure, as different disciplines have 
taken up geography in their own way they bring to bear their respective assump- 
tions, languages, paradigms, applications, and examples about the meaning of the 
spatial. Thus, as the spatial turn has unfolded across the social sciences and 
humanities, the term has come to embrace an ever-larger set of uses and implica- 
tions. But, conversely, space can serve as a window into different disciplines, a 
means of shedding light on what separates and what unites them. Because so 
many lines of thought converge on the topic of spatiality, space is a vehicle for 
examining what it means to be interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, to cross the 
borders and divides that have organized the academic division of labor, to reveal 
the cultures that pervade different fields of knowledge, and to bring these con- 
trasting lines of thought into a productive engagement with one another. 

To appreciate the spatial turn, it is incumbent to know something about the 
changing role of space in the social sciences and humanities. The following sec- 
tion briefly charts this complex issue, noting the rise of historicism under modern 
capitalism and its decline under postmodernism. Next, the chapter asks why is it 
that space should be so important to understanding the contemporary world, and 
offers insights gleaned from analyses of globalization, cyberspace, changes in 
identity and subjectivity, and environmental issues. Finally, the chapter con- 
cludes by presenting a brief synopsis of each chapter. 

The fall and rise of spatiality 

In the nineteenth century, space became steadily subordinated to time in modern 
consciousness, a phenomenon that reflected the enormous time-space compres- 
sion of the industrial revolution; intellectually, this phenomenon was manifested 
through the lens of historicism, a despatialized consciousness in which geography 
figured weakly or not at all, or, as Soja (1993: 140) defines it, as "an overdevel- 
oped historical contextualization of social life and social theory that actively 
submerges and peripheralises the geographical or spatial imagination." Typically, 
historicist thought linearized time and marginalized space by positing the exis- 
tence of temporal "stages" of development, a view that portrayed the past as the 
progressive, inexorable ascent from savagery to civilization, simplicity to com- 
plexity, primitiveness to civilization, and darkness to light, a trend made most 
explicit in Whiggish accounts of history. Likewise, historicists such as Hegel, 
Marx, and Toynbee offered sweeping teleological accounts that paid little atten- 
tion to space, human consciousness, or the contingency of social life. In the same 

Introduction 3 

vein, Social Darwinism usurped the original theory of evolution as contingent and 
open-ended, substituting it with a simplistic, racist, linear view of phyletic grad- 
ualism such as Spencer's "survival of the fittest." Orientalist thought structured 
the Western geographical imagination such that distance from Europe became 
equated with increasingly more primitive stages of development, conflating con- 
tinents with races in terms that were hierarchically organized in terms of their 
degree of alleged degree of temporal progress. In this way did historicism eclipse 
space in the service of imperial thought: beyond Europe was before Europe 
(McGrane 1983: 94), a theme articulated over and over again in modernization 
theory and its current neoliberal variants. All of these maneuvers robbed the 
understanding of social change of any sense of contingency, framing the past as 
a train of events leading inevitably to the present. 

The reassertion of space into modern consciousness was a long, slow, and 
painful undertaking. In the 1920s, the Chicago School of sociologists and geogra- 
phers attempted to inject space into urban analysis, a project that was poignant in 
its sensitivity to the experience of recent immigrants and the textures of ethnic 
neighborhoods and simultaneously doomed by its simplistic understanding of 
class, gender, power, and the world system. In the tumultuous 1960s, as Soja notes 
in his chapter, the seminal works of Henri Lefebvre (1974/1991) and Michel 
Foucault (1972/1980) were critical in suggesting that the organization of space 
was central to the structure and functioning of capitalism as a coherent whole. 
Moreover, Lefebvre maintained that space must be understood not simply as a 
concrete, material object, but also as an ideological, lived, and subjective one. 

It was the injection of social theory - specifically Marxism, initially via the works 
of David Harvey (1973, 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990, 2006) - that formed the centerpiece 
for a critical re-evaluation of space and spatiality in social thought. Social theory 
repositioned the understanding of space from given to produced, calling attention to 
its role in the construction and transformation of social life and its deeply power- 
laden nature. Freed from the frozen geometries of spatial analysis, the plasticity of 
space rose to the fore, its contingent creation as a central moment in the reproduc- 
tion of social life. Harvey's spatialization of Marxism, and concurrent Marxification 
of space, centered on the deep structure of commodity production and the conver- 
sion of commodities into money, generating a model of production and the labor 
process that shed light on its transformation of time and space. Landscapes, in this 
reading, reflected the logic of commodity production at any given historical 
moment, constituting a "spatial fix" or window of stability that enabled the process 
of commodity production to unfold unproblematically, at least for a fixed window 
of time. Eventually, however, capitalists as a whole are compelled to speed up the 
turnover time of capital, which is "the time of production together with the time of 
circulation of exchange" (Harvey 1989: 229). The resulting need to "annihilate space 
by time" - to substitute one spatial fix with another - is thus fundamental to the oper- 
ation and survival of capitalism, i.e., its ability to reproduce itself at ever expanded 
spatial scales and to accelerate temporal rhythms of capital accumulation. In this 
way, capitalism exhibits a fundamental contradiction between fixity - the need to 
stabilize production temporarily in order to realize surplus value - and motion, the 

4 Barney Warf and Santa Arias 

need to annihilate old geographies in an act of creative destruction and replace them 
with new, more efficient landscapes amenable to more recent systems of production. 
Capitalists must negotiate (often unsuccessfully) the knife-edge between using up 
old spaces and creating new ones. 

This line of thought was picked up and advanced by Ed Soja (1989, 1996, 2000), 
whose works repeatedly and emphatically insisted that the spatial could not be sub- 
ordinated to time or the social. Thus, he maintains that social theory should rest on 
the triangular foundations of time, space, and social structure, each of which con- 
tingently structures and is structured by the others. Thus, Soja (1993) argues that 
the spatial turn has involved the end of historicism, which privileged time over 
space, and the reassertion of space into social theory. In a sense, this trend marks a 
return to Kant's position that held the two dimensions to be of equal significance. 

Similarly, Manuel Castells (1996, 1997), noting the pronounced degree to 
which postmodern capitalism relies on information as its primary resource, dis- 
tinguished earlier information societies, in which productivity was derived from 
access to energy and the manipulation of materials, from later informational 
societies that emerged in the late twentieth century, in which productivity is 
derived primarily from knowledge and information. In his reading, the spatiality 
of postmodernism was manifested in the global "space of flows." He notes, for 
example, that while people live in places, postmodern power is manifested in the 
linkages among places, their interconnectedness, as personified by business exec- 
utives shuttling among global cities and using the internet to weave complex 
geographies of knowledge invisible to almost all ordinary citizens. This process 
was largely driven by the needs of the transnational class of the powerful 
employed in information-intensive occupations. 

Increasingly, in the 1980s, the reassertion of space came to embrace various 
aspects of human subjectivity, everyday life, and the multiple dimensions of iden- 
tity that are central to any coherent understanding of social life. Giddens's (1984) 
theory of structuration, for example, transformed the once-strict dualism of struc- 
ture and agency into a fluid duality, in which individuals, forming their biogra- 
phies in time and space through the routines of everyday life, reproduce and 
transform their social worlds primarily without meaning to do so. Everyday 
thought and behavior, the unacknowledged preconditions to action, do not sim- 
ply mirror the world; they constitute it as the outcomes to action. Social structures 
and relations are thus reproduced, and hence simultaneously changed, by the 
people who make them; individuals are both produced by, and producers of, 
history and geography. Given this logic, space could no longer be seen simply as 
a backdrop against which life unfolds sequentially, but rather, intimately tied to 
lived experience. As Foucault suggests, space "takes the form of relations among 
sites" (quoted in Soja 1996: 156). 

Why space, why now? 

The spatial turn is hardly the product of a few ivory tower intellectuals. Rather, 
this shift in social thought reflects much broader transformations in the economy, 

Introduction 5 

politics, and culture of the contemporary world. Such a view asserts that we can- 
not comprehend the production of spatial ideas independent of the production of 
spatiality, i.e., views of geography are only comprehensible by appeal to social 
and spatial context. Several forces have intersected since the late twentieth 
century to elevate space to new levels of material and ideological significance. 

Contemporary globalization has undermined commonly held notions of 
Euclidean space by forming linkages among disparate producers and consumers 
intimately connected over vast distances through flows of capital and goods. 
Globalization is an annoyingly ambiguous term, however, and refers to a variety 
of processes that play out in different ways, from global cities to international 
trade to the internationalization of culture and consumption. Unprecedented vol- 
umes of immigration across national borders have increasingly confronted resi- 
dents in many countries, particularly in Europe and North America, with issues 
of cultural difference. Tourism likewise allows for the selective appropriation of 
distant cultures and places. The media, increasingly under the control of a hand- 
ful of robber barons, relay news and events across a global stage. The offshoring 
of many jobs from the developed world to the developing one has called attention 
to national differentials in skills and labor costs. International finance, a world- 
wide space of flows, global deregulation, and the decline in transport costs have 
all conspired to erode conventional geographic preoccupations with proximity. 
Far from annihilating the importance of space, globalization has increased it. 
Ironically, just as several pundits announced the "death of distance" and the "end 
of geography," geography acquired a renewed significance in the analysis of 
international flows of information, culture, capital, and people. As neoliberal cap- 
ital operates ever more effortlessly on a worldwide stage, small differences 
among regions become increasingly important. Moreover, as numerous scholars 
have shown, globalization does not play out identically in different places 
(Swyngedouw 1997); rather, context matters, and the incorporation of unique 
places into the global division of labor changes not only those locales, but the 
world system as well. Glocalization, therefore, is a two-way street. 

The rise of cyberspace and the internet has also raised issues of spatiality in 
several fields. The internet, an unregulated electronic network connecting an esti- 
mated one billion people in more than 1 80 countries in 2007, allows users to tran- 
scend distance virtually instantaneously. Telecommunications systems have 
become the central technology of postmodern capitalism, vital not only to corpo- 
rations large and small, but also to consumption, personal communication, enter- 
tainment, education, politics, and numerous other domains of social life. Indeed, 
for many people who spend a great deal of time in the digital world, cyberspace 
has become such an important part of everyday life that the once-solid boundary 
between the real and the virtual has essentially dissolved: it is difficult today to 
tell where one ends and the other begins. In allowing people and firms to "jump 
scale," to connect effortlessly with others around the world at the click of a 
mouse, cyberspace has been instrumental to the production of complex, frag- 
mented, jumbled spaces of postmodernity, all of which have called for mounting 
scrutiny. Similarly, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) offer dramatic new 

6 Barney Warf and Santa Arias 

means to analyze spatiality, even if these are often drenched in empiricist and 
positivist epistemologies. GIS, therefore, is not simply reflective of the new 
importance of space, but also constitutive of it. 

Globalization, the international media, and migration across national borders - 
all reflective of one underlying transformation - have also entailed a profound 
shift in identity and subjectivity (e.g. Featherstone 1990; Robertson 1992; 
Gubrium and Holstein 2000). Rather than a fixed, unified identity that lies at the 
core of the modern self, for example, there are grounds for arguing many people, 
hooked into different locales via the internet, consist of multiple, shifting, even 
contradictory "selves" who lie at the changing intersections of different language 
games. Jameson (1991 : 14), for example, argues that "the alienation of the subject 
is displaced by the fragmentation of the subject." In this context, increasingly, the 
notion of the autonomous subject standing apart from the world he/she observes 
has come under question, and in its place lie a greater pluralistic affirmation of 
cultural difference based on numerous axes of identity (gender, ethnicity, sexual- 
ity, etc.). 

Finally, the rapidly rising seriousness of global ecological and environmental 
problems has itself played no small role in elevating the significance of space. 
Issues that once could be understood and contained within relatively localized 
contexts, such as water pollution, are increasingly viewed as approachable only 
on a worldwide basis. Acid rain crosses national borders with ease. The enormous 
crisis of biodiversity unfolding across the world is inseparable from global pat- 
terns of habitat destruction, deforestation, and resource consumption. The grad- 
ual end of the age of cheap petrochemicals has added new urgency to this issue, 
and threatens to raise the "friction of distance" of commuting fields. And of 
course, looming over all of this is the dark shadow of global warming: as evi- 
dence mounts daily of rapidly melting icecaps and glaciers, of ecosystems turned 
upside down overnight, the location of sources of greenhouse gases has become 
a vitally problematic issue. Because environmental issues are unevenly distrib- 
uted across space, and because geography as a discipline has a long history of 
investigating human-environment interactions, space and spatiality have become 
crucial dimensions in understanding and tackling these problems. 

A sketch of this volume 

The 1 1 essays that follow offer a variety of approaches to the revival of spatial 
scholarship. Some are analytical surveys of the literature in their respective dis- 
ciplines, while others offer original empirical analyses of space in various con- 
texts. Far from constituting some homogenous whole, they emphasize distinctly 
different interpretations of what spatiality means, how it is constructed, why it 
changes, and its implications for how society is organized and reorganized, 
knowledge constructed, and the possibilities and perils of change. Such lines of 
thought focus on a multitude of spatial scales, ranging from the most intimate, the 
body, to that of community, region, nation, and the entirety of the globe. Space 
as a swirling, complex, contingent, ever-changing maelstrom of possibilities is 

Introduction 7 

seen to be wrapped up in issues and contexts as diverse as Neolithic cities, 
eighteenth-century representations of the Americas by Europeans and Creoles, 
twenty-first-century Manhattan, the Cao Dai religion in Vietnam, post-Soviet 
Eurasia, cyberspace, the pre-Columbian Andes, and Spanish cinema. What gives 
these essays coherence, what unites them as a common point of departure, is the 
insistence that no social or cultural phenomenon can be torn from its spatial con- 
text, that geography is not some subordinate afterthought to history in the con- 
struction of social life, that no meaningful understanding of how human beings 
produce and reproduce their worlds can be achieved without invoking a sense that 
the social, the temporal, the intellectual, and the personal are inescapably always 
and everywhere also the spatial. 

The collection begins with one of the key theorists in initiating the spatial turn, 
Edward Soja, who has long been one of the most aggressively spatial thinkers in the 
social sciences and influential across the disciplines. In an essay that weaves 
between his autobiographical journey and the broader intellectual history of con- 
temporary spatiality, in which he charts his own, highly personal spatial turn by jux- 
taposing it with the transformation of social thought more broadly, he also argues 
that most of the spatial turn occurred outside of the discipline of Geography, the dis- 
cipline for which space has long been the central, defining dimension. For Soja, 
spatiality has long been synonymous with the urban - in his case, a voyage that 
included the Bronx, Chicago, and Los Angeles - much as spatiality has exerted an 
effect that extended from Neolithic Catalhuyuk to the contemporary global city. 

The depiction and inscription of space have increasingly come to form an 
important element in popular struggles against neoliberalism and reactionary 
globalization. Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles chart the rise of subversive 
cartographies, cognitive maps that portray the profoundly disorienting reterritori- 
alizations of the post-Fordist age, and in the process simultaneously reflect the 
newfound role of space in geographies of resistance and help to call it into being. 
They focus on the efforts of two groups, the Bureau d'Etudes in Paris and 
Hackitectura in Seville, to construct emancipatory mapping strategies in the face 
of an increasingly neoliberal Europe. In the process of drawing together diverse 
political strands of civil society, they re-present space in forms that undermine the 
taken- for-grantedness of hegemonic spatialities. 

The rise to prominence of socially constructed space, as produced rather than 
given, involves a transition in how space itself is theorized, what it means, how 
it is made. Harkening back to the famous seventeenth-century debate between 
Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, in which space assumed absolute versus rel- 
ative properties, respectively, Barney Warf suggests that modernity portrayed 
space as a surface, i.e., as a flat, homogenous field in which differences could 
be minimized and places brought into an ocularcentric field of knowledge. 
Conversely, socially constructed, poststructuralist notions of space entail the 
metaphor of networks, such as the internet, which are forever partial, incomplete, 
and never fully known. Conceptually, the appreciation of networked space has 
taken various forms, such as globalized commodity chains, Massey's power- 
geometries, and Deleuzian rhizomes. 

8 Barney Warf and Santa Arias 

Political scientist Jeffrey Kopstein makes the intriguing argument that the 
collapse of communism across Eurasia in the 1990s opened a space for a labora- 
tory in which the differential trajectories of multiple countries formerly domi- 
nated by (or part of) the Soviet Union could be compared and contrasted. Some 
moved happily into democratic societies, whereas others sank into abysmal dic- 
tatorships even worse than they suffered under their Soviet overlords. The geog- 
raphy of these transformations opened a spatial turn in political science, in which 
political change can be fruitfully seen as path-dependent and contingent rather 
than predetermined by any given set of institutional factors. In making this argu- 
ment, he explores the provocative question as to whether geography is a mean- 
ingful category through which to explore such issues or whether space is only a 
proxy for other, aspatial causal forces. 

Despite the earnest efforts of earlier approaches such as the Chicago School, 
Sociology has tended to ignore space and spatiality as constitutive features of social 
life in favor of perspectives that stress general explanatory laws and minimize the 
time-space contexts of social processes (e.g., modernization theory). Harry Dahms 
maintains that as sociologists have grappled with the enormous changes wrought by 
globalization, the field has come to appreciate space anew. In this perspective, 
space materializes at the intersections of deep, underlying forces and the surface 
appearances of everyday life and behavior. By incorporating space, sociologists 
both avoid the empiricism that continually confronts the field (and many others, 
including Geography) and are well positioned to appreciate the complexity of con- 
temporary structural transformations and individual identity formation. 

Space has played such a long and important role in literary criticism that it is 
difficult to know where to begin to summarize its significance. Pamela Gilbert's 
essay approaches the spatial turn in English literature by delving into sex and city, 
both the nineteenth-century version in London and its twentieth-century counter- 
part in New York. The city - that dense, complex, often bewildering environment 
that offers so many opportunities and possibilities for anonymity - has for 
centuries generated connotations of illicit sexuality, of adulterous affairs, casual 
encounters, prostitution, predatory attacks, and homosexuality. Drawing upon a 
wealth of tropes, poems, stories, novels, and television shows, Gilbert shows us 
that the spaces of the city simultaneously gave rise to particular forms of sexual- 
ity, legitimate or otherwise, and in turn were shaped by those practices. 

Pragmatically and conceptually, the depiction of space has played a major role 
in the discourses of history. Santa Arias's essay contextualizes the relationship 
between geography and history by examining the role of space in the works by 
William Robertson and Juan Bautista Munoz. She focuses on the place of car- 
tography in historical accounts in order to explore eighteenth-century forms of 
geopolitics and show how the layering of history onto the map and the insistence 
on national contributions to geographical knowledge were turned into justifica- 
tions of empire in the name of progress and civilization. 

Colombian anthropologist Margarita Serge offers insights into the spatial turn 
in her discipline by delving ethnographically into the multiple ways in which 
people and landscape are intertwined in the region of Sierra Nevada de Santa 

Introduction 9 

Marta. Over time, multiple groups shaped, and were in turn shaped by, this area, 
from Tairona to Kogui Indians, campesinos, guerrillas, and marijuana growers. 
The NGO, Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada, actively seeks to protect and preserve 
the region's cultural and biological diversity. In sharing her insights from this 
project, she reveals an Andean place that is constituted simultaneously in histor- 
ical, material, and ideological terms, and how the status of being an "insider" or 
"outsider" is problematized through the act of understanding and navigating the 
locale's complex cultural and political dynamics. 

Religion in all its varied forms has, of course, always been deeply spatial, an 
observation that geographical scholars of religious beliefs have long known. John 
Corrigan draws upon this lengthy corpus of scholarship to explicate how religious 
spaces operate at the interface of two worlds, the material and the theological. He 
notes that such places are always "polylocative," ever-fluctuating between the 
real and the imagined, the present and the hereafter. He traces this notion through 
a series of events and processes that are simultaneously temporal, spatial, secu- 
lar, and religious, such as pilgrimage, migration, rituals, the inscription of the reli- 
gious body, material culture (including food and music), religious practices, the 
state, and the construction of time and memory, all of which reflect, inform, sus- 
tain, and at times challenge the dominant norms of theological institutions. 

For scholars concerned with colonialism, space has been an indispensable 
avenue through which one can appreciate the complex dynamics of the European 
conquest. In the case of Latin America, Mariselle Melendez draws upon post- 
structural cultural geography and critical cartography to analyze how an 
eighteenth-century Peruvian newspaper, the Mercurio Peruano, was caught up 
within and amplified the political dynamics of the nascent independence move- 
ment, the construction of Creole identity, and the propagation of Enlightenment 
rationality in the New World. Such an exercise is useful in revealing how spatial 
discourses are not simply reflective of social and geographic transformations, but 
also constitutive of them. 

Joan Ramon Resina explores the interface between film and geography, the 
realm in which the real and the cinematic bleed into one another. Film captures 
and reproduces space, bringing it to the eye and into consciousness in a manner 
no other technique can quite approximate. But what is gained and what is lost in 
this appropriation? Resina utilizes Luis Bunuel's Land Without Bread, a surreal- 
ist documentary about an impoverished region in Spain, Las Hurdes, to explicate 
how the real and the magical become blurred through the vision of the camera, a 
visual "surface of meaning." 

From Kogui mythology to postcommunist Eurasia, from Sex and the City to Las 
Hurdes in Spain, does space retain any meaning as it has been embraced by other 
disciplines? As geographers opened doors to other fields - and went through them - 
space has acquired properties and qualities that few could have foreseen when they 
initiated the spatial turn. Far from the traditional, Cartesian notion of space as a set 
of physical places, contemporary thought throughout the social sciences and 
humanities reveals it as a variegated, complex, often bewildering series of differ- 
ent types of locations: physical, mythological, symbolic, imagined, linguistic, 

10 Barney Warf and Santa Arias 

cartographic, perceptual, representational, i.e., space as suspended between matter 
and meaning. Indeed, as geographic thought has penetrated fields outside of geog- 
raphy, the nature of space has become ever more diverse. 

Indeed, so wide-ranging are the types of space that have emerged in the wake 
of the spatial turn that geographers have lost control of their defining subject of 
study, the one topic that united a notoriously heterogeneous and schizophrenic 
discipline. All of these essays demonstrate, in some way, shape or form, that 
"space matters," not for the trivial and self-evident reason that everything occurs 
in space, but because where events unfold is integral to how they take shape. As 
historicism gradually loosens its tenacious hold over social thought, causality and 
context are inseparably fused. Space is not simply a passive reflection of social 
and cultural trends, but an active participant, i.e., geography is constitutive as 
well as representative. Those who relegate geography to epiphenomenal status do 
so at their own risk, depriving themselves of a critically important instrument 
with which to gain insight into the contingent logics of human affairs. By now 
this argument has been made clear a sufficiently large number of times that space 
has become indispensable across the social sciences and humanities. In this light, 
the spatial turn is irreversible. 

2 Taking space personally 

Edward W. Soja 

There is no word for what I do, for what I passionately profess. I identified myself 
as a geographer at an early age and have accepted a series of qualifying labels over 
the years: regional, political, theoretical, development, quantitative, Africanist, 
critical, Marxist, structuralist, anti-humanist, neo-marxist, and more recently 
postmarxist, poststructuralist, postcolonial, postmodern. But geographer no 
longer seems enough, even with all its adjectival baggage, to describe someone 
who interprets the world by assertively foregrounding a spatial perspective. I put 
space first, before seeing things historically or socially, or as essentially political 
or economic or cultural, or shaped by class, race, gender, sexual preference; or 
screened through discourse, linguistics, psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, or 
any other specialized disposition. I try to see the world through all these percep- 
tive lenses, but the primary focus is insistently spatial, informed, motivated, and 
inspired by a critical spatial perspective. 

If geographer is not enough, what am I? If I foregrounded temporality rather 
than spatiality, naming would be easy. I would be called a historian, a transdisci- 
plinary observer of lived time in all its multitude of expressions. Although there are 
deep parallels between the spatial-geographical and temporal-historical perspec- 
tives, however, there is no term like historian to describe the all-encompassing 
spatializer, the person who believes not just that space matters but that it is a vital 
existential force shaping our lives, an influential aspect of everything that ever 
was, is, or will be, a transdisciplinary way of looking at and interpreting the world 
that is as insightful and revealing as that of the historian. For me, what is true for 
the historical applies also to the spatial and I have devoted my academic career to 
advocating this critical comparability. Few others, even within the discipline of 
geography, are so assertively spatial, so convinced that spatial thinking is central 
to the production of knowledge and so driven by the need to inform others of the 
epistemological power of a critical spatial perspective. 

What then are my nominal choices? Spatial theorist? Spatiophile? Spatiologist? 
Spatioanalyst? All these help, but are not quite there yet, for the comparison with 
the simple and self-confident identity of historian leads to further complications. 
Spatializing (or being a geographer) has never had the same intellectual prestige 
and recognized interpretive power as historicizing (or being a historian), even 
though there is nothing in Western philosophical and theoretical thought that 

12 Edward W. Soja 

unequivocally establishes an intrinsic privileging of time over space or history over 
geography. Yet such a privileging continues to prevail. So whatever we call the spa- 
tial equivalent of historian, that person must contend with an entrenched legacy of 
scholarly and popular discrimination and subordination maintained, even if out of 
conscious awareness, by the still hegemonic "history boys." 1 

Searching for a name is not just a playful exercise, for it opens up a distinctive 
viewpoint on the recent resurgence of interest in space, what is now being widely 
described as a Spatial Turn in the human sciences. It defines the Spatial Turn 
from the start as a response to a long-standing if often unperceived ontological 
and epistemological bias in all the human sciences, including such spatial disci- 
plines as geography and architecture. This spatial advocacy is not against histor- 
ical interpretation, an anti-history, nor is it a substitution of spatial for historical 
determination, as some skeptics have seen it to be. Reflecting the uneven devel- 
opment of historical versus spatial discourse, the Spatial Turn is fundamentally 
an attempt to develop a more creative and critically effective balancing of the 
spatial/geographical and the temporal/historical imaginations. 

Over the past ten years, the number of dedicated spatial thinkers across all disci- 
plines and modes of thought has been increasing exponentially, spreading a belief 
that the materialized and socially constructed spatiality of human life is just as 
revealingly significant, ontologically and epistemologically, as life's historicality 
and sociality (Soja 1996). Whether we are pondering the increasing intervention of 
the electronic media in our daily routines; seeking ways to act politically to reduce 
poverty, racism, sexual discrimination, and environmental degradation; trying to 
understand the multiplying geopolitical conflicts around the globe; or seeking new 
insights through academic research and writing, we are becoming increasingly 
aware that we are, and always have been, intrinsically spatial as well as temporal 
beings, active participants in the production and reproduction of the encompassing 
human geographies in which we live, as much and with similarly given constraints 
as we make our histories. 

The Spatial Turn is still ongoing and has not yet reached into the mainstream of 
most academic disciplines. Its future expansion, however, has the potential to be one 
of the most significant intellectual and political developments of the twenty-first 
century. Framed by a series of autobiographical notes and by a belief that biographies 
are as much geographies as they are histories, what follows aims at gaining some 
further understanding of this still advancing and potentially epochal paradigm shift. 

Geographical awakenings 

Growing up enveloped in the heterogeneous densities of the Bronx helped make 
me a geographer by the time I was eight, and I have been a passionately commit- 
ted proponent of thinking geographically ever since. My budding geographical 
imagination was locally grounded in the thick layers of social interaction and co- 
present cultural diversity that drenched the streetscapes of the outer borough. The 
street's densely socialized geography was intricately mapped out: marble games 
of various sorts in several specific locations; hit-the-penny, slug, and baseball card 

Taking space personally 13 

flipping on the square-lined cement sidewalk; hi-bounce rubber ball games played 
off certain stoops and curbs, with stickball taking up the entire street; and "four 
corners," the most popular game of all and my favorite, attracting multiple gener- 
ations (and occasionally some heavy betting by the 'big guys') making almost 
constant use of the highly focal street corner. All of the children had detailed 
mental maps, varying with the seasons, of the use value of nearly every square 
inch of our lived streetspace. 

From the start, however, my mental mapping always soared beyond the local, 
seeking to explore and vicariously experience the ever-widening other spaces that 
stretched outward from my street corner-defined homeland. 2 Everything on earth 
was alluringly present, just a map-read away or else at the end of a subway ride 
into the umbilical magic of hyper-connective Manhattan, the core to our periph- 
ery. My very being became quickly absorbed in thinking geographically, project- 
ing myself into other spaces and places, imaginatively exploring faraway cities 
and regions and cultures as escape, education, adventure. I think I was born to 
spatialize, to celebrate my emplacement in that nesting of nodal regions that 
defines our being-in-the-world. 

My geographical imagination was also and always particularly and intensively 
urban. Cities focused my attention. When I was 1 0 or so I was swept up by a com- 
pulsion to know, name, and locate every major city on earth. I compiled a list, 
hand-written at first and then typed out a year later, organized by country, with 
cities over one million written in red ink, those over 500,000 in black underlined 
in red, and all other cities over 100,000 just in black, making sure to include the 
capital city even if it were under my 100,000 threshold. I located them all in 
atlases and gazetteers, etching the political-territorial map of the world into my 
seemingly eidetic geographical memory. 

The same urban excitement hit me again last year, when I came across a list 
prepared by the UN of the 430 or so global city regions of more than a million 
inhabitants, a new category of great contemporary interest to me. I spent hours res- 
timulating my mental cartographies as I thought about an article I was writing on 
the urbanization of the globe and the globalization of the urban (Soja and Kanai 
2008). As one might expect, China stood out with the largest number of million- 
plus cities, reflecting the most rapid urbanization-industrialization process the 
world had ever seen. With a quiet smile, I remembered writing a letter more than 
five decades ago addressed to the "Chinese Embassy, Washington, D.C." politely 
asking for a list of all Chinese cities over 100,000 to make my compilation com- 
plete, for none of my almanacs and gazetteers had long enough city lists for China. 
I never received an answer. 

Finding Andorra 

My formal education as a geographer started at about the same time. In my first 
school report at Public School 6 I shared my amazing discovery of Andorra, hid- 
den away along the boundary between France and Spain. 3 I felt both wonder at 
its appearance, literally and figuratively, and a little dismay at my failure to 

14 Edward W. Soja 

know of its presence. I became determined to find out about all the other tiny 
countries hidden away from itinerant cartographic adventurers: Sark, San 
Marino, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Sikkim, Hunza. I drew maps of my unusual dis- 
coveries, such as the island of Samosir, with its Hindu temple, located in the 
middle of Lake Toba, itself located on the predominantly Muslim island of 
Sumatra, part of the Indonesian archipelago. Oh, how I wanted to be there, to 
take a trans-scalar journey, to do what today would be called Google-earthing in 
post-tsunami Aceh. 

I kept trying to explain to my childhood friends the thrill that was attached to 
amassing geographical knowledge and vicariously visiting foreign places, but 
few would understand. I called myself a geographer but would not tell anyone 
else. Whenever asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never said geogra- 
pher because I didn't know you could make a living doing what I was doing. No 
one else I ever met said they wanted to be a geographer. Who would pay you to 
do something that felt so good? 

Geography was my secret life, full of imagined adventure and discovery in 
other worlds out beyond the familiar geographies I more directly shaped and was 
shaped by on and off the streets of the Bronx. Closer to home, I remember walk- 
ing with friends to the archly dangerous (lots of bad guys hidden about) but mag- 
netically attractive (especially for picking lilacs in April) Bronx Botanical 
Gardens. As we strolled along Southern Boulevard, we heard music and crowd 
noises some distance in from the main street, and when we followed our ears and 
nose (for the scents in the air were sumptuous) we found Italy! It was a hidden 
Italian neighborhood celebrating a saint's feast day on the streets, with food, 
dancing, pumping accordions, unaffected and unexpected joy. 

I found out more about geography at Stuyvesant High School in deep and dis- 
tant Manhattan, nearly an hour's subway journey from my home. Instead of 
woodworking or sheet metal shop, I was able to take what I was told was the only 
cartography class taught in any high school in the country. No high school taught 
geography as its own subject but I learned about map projections and how they 
always distort reality. Maps, I realized, can never present an accurate picture of 
the territory. Nevertheless, I learned how to print neatly with stencils and India 
ink pens, and I became a whiz with zipatone paste-on shading. The teacher appre- 
ciated my enthusiasm and told me that yes, Edward, it is possible to be a geogra- 
pher. Never looking back or facing doubts about my future, or doing anything 
else to earn a living, I have been a practicing geographer ever since. 

Into hypothetical worlds 

New York City in the 1960s was a wasteland for advanced geographical educa- 
tion, the only affordable exception being Hunter College in the Bronx (now called 
Lehman), a public college a bus ride from home with a fully fledged Department 
of Geography and Geology. My formal education as a geographer would flow 
without interruption or diversion after four years at Hunter when, barely out of 
my teens, I left the Bronx behind to attend the University of Wisconsin. 

Taking space personally 15 

I defined myself then — and now — as primarily a political geographer. 
Although I started with an interest in Central Asia, Sir Halford Mackinder's 
Heartland of the World Island, and the so-called geographical pivot of history 
(nice phrase that), and did my first seminar paper on new Chinese settlement in 
Sinkiang, I began shifting my regional interests in Madison to the resounding 
periphery of Africa and would become an active Africanist geographer over the 
next fifteen years. But strangely enough, what would affect me most during my 
one year at Wisconsin and trigger a lifelong interest in spatial theory and theo- 
rizing was a cartogram found in textbooks on climate, the egg-shaped 'hypothet- 
ical continent'. 

This hypothetical and heuristic continent of climates offered a wondrous new 
way to look at the world, literally and figuratively. Stretching from pole to pole 
and bulging more broadly north of the equator to reflect the larger land masses 
in the northern hemisphere, this imagined supercontinent was marked by 
"expected" climate zones based on a conventional Koppen classification. It 
reflected an understanding of basic atmospheric dynamics, orographic effects, 
ocean currents, the shifting Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, all the general 
forces that shape climate in different parts of the world. In reading the map 
knowledgably, one could roughly predict temperature and rainfall patterns prac- 
tically everywhere on earth: a remarkable condensation of geographical knowl- 
edge on one page. Mediterranean climates, with their distinctive pattern of dry 
hot summers and wet winters, were decidedly mapped on the west side of the 
hypothetical supercontinent in two latitudinal zones north and south of the equa- 
tor. Looking at an actual map of the world's climatic zones, there they were lined 
up where they were predicted to be: the vast Mediterranean Sea region on the 
western edge of Eurasia, the Californian version at the same latitude in western 
North America, and even more amazing an equivalent zone in Chile and two oth- 
ers at the southern tips of Africa and Australia where they reached into the same 
southern hemisphere latitudes. One could also make good guesses about the land- 
scape and vegetation in all these areas and enjoy the realization that these far-flung 
Mediterranean zones and their nearby cooler and wetter extensions were the 
source of nearly all the world's production of wine and olive oil. One could also 
find foggy coastal deserts (equatorward from the Mediterranean zones), identify 
areas most affected by monsoons or tornadoes, locate the warmest ocean currents, 
the tundra, the rainforests and savannas. The supercontinent did not exist. It was a 
creative figment of someone's geographical imagination, a synthetic mapping that 
stimulated a general understanding of an extraordinary variety of empirical real- 
world conditions. If this was what theory formation was about, then I must be not 
just a geographer but also a geographical theorist, seeking effectively evocative 
models of imaginary worlds that could not be found on the ground. 

Seeking spatial theory 

I followed up my absorptions with the hypothetical continent by taking a seminar 
with Glenn Trewartha on his book The Earth's Problem Climates, where he 

16 Edward W. Soja 

looked at the world's climate anomalies, places which did not fit the hypothetical 
schema. These demanded more detailed analysis to understand why they deviated 
from the norm. I remembered this later when, in the Ph.D. program at Syracuse 
University, I learned about mapping residuals from regression, identifying areas 
of geographical variation which the general regression model could not explain. 
I came to realize that what theories could not explain was just as important as 
what they could, as human geographies took on a multi-layered complexity that 
entwined the general and generalizable with the unique and particular, the nomo- 
thetic with the idiographic as they were called by the geosophers. 

I left Wisconsin for Syracuse searching for more theoretical excitement in 
these hypothetical worlds, and found it with an odd combination of mentors, the 
brilliant young firebrand of the new quantitative and theoretical geography, Peter 
Gould (also an Africanist) and the more urbanely wise historical and cultural 
geographer Donald Meinig. My geographical imagination exploded with excite- 
ment and newfound zeal at Syracuse. My hypothetical worlds multiplied with the 
isotropic planes and spatial models of the new geography as taught by the irre- 
pressible Gould; while, in a very different, more traditionally geographic mode, 
Meinig invigorated my thinking about cultures and culture regions and the 
historical geography of world civilizations through his own vividly descriptive 
modeling of culture hearths, cores, and peripheries. 

My geographical imagination was particularly stimulated by Peter Haggett's 
Locational Analysis in Human Geography (1965). Never was geography more 
enchanting, more alluring. There were not just the familiar surface appearances, 
the mapped material spaces, the areal variations that could explain other areal vari- 
ations (the bread and butter of statistical geography), there were other worlds, at 
least five formative layers building on one another to create and tie together the 
vividly spatial organization of human society: movement-networks-nodes- 
hierarchies-surfaces. Everything was there: Hagerstrand's propagation of inno- 
vation waves, gravity models of human interaction, Von Thunen rings of 
concentricity, Alfred (not Max) Weber's industrial triangles, location quotients, 
Loschian lattices and Christaller's central place theory, regionalization methods, 
the brim-full space economy, everything taking shape through adjustments to the 
friction of distance rather than any physical environmental factor. All this would 
be there, they told me, even if the earth's surface were as smooth as a billiard ball. 

I fed off Haggett and what I felt were the best possible teachers of the new and 
the old geography, Gould and Meinig, and became an even more ardent mission- 
ary for geographical thinking, armed with new tools to spread the exciting word 
to all those who were as yet unaware. I was no longer just a geographer. 
Geography became the spatial organization of human society, what I would later 
call (pace Lefebvre) the spatiality of social life, and I was its analyst and theorist, 
charged with convincing others of the powers of spatial analysis and explanation. 
My evangelical spatializing as a doctoral student was aimed primarily at political 
scientists, especially those in comparative politics and interested in the inde- 
pendence movements and nation-building efforts that were spreading throughout 

Taking space personally 17 

Africa. Challenged by Gould to revolutionize the moribund field of political 
geography, I boldly marched off to Africa in 1963, stopping for a few months at 
the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to learn Swahili. 

Mathematical intermission 

In 1965, after returning from eighteen months researching the geography of mod- 
ernization in Kenya for my dissertation, I began my first teaching job in the now 
defunct Department of Geography at Northwestern University. In the next two 
years, I was married, had my first of two children, completed writing my disser- 
tation, and was carried forward by the compelling flow that had always been 
shaping my life to become a geographer by profession as well as persuasion. 

Geography at Northwestern was swept up by geographical mathematics and 
statistics at an absurdly high level of abstraction. Our best doctoral students fol- 
lowed a unique program that, in addition to advanced courses in calculus and lin- 
ear programming, moved them through a sequence of so-called geography 
courses beginning with explorations of point patterns in the plane (fitting proba- 
bility functions into distributions of dots of various sorts, from county seats in 
Iowa to freckles on your arm), moving on to the next dimension in linear patterns 
in the plane (with all sorts of network models and connectivity measures), and 
finally to the ultimate in n-dimensional space exploration, trend surface analysis, 
in which one could exactly reproduce any given geography through a series of 
statistically defined surfaces of accumulating complexity, each one absorbing 
variance until all was soaked up in the end. Haggett's model was embedded 
therein, but it was hammered into inert equations and geometries. 4 

I stayed at Northwestern for seven years, including two spent in Africa. For 
an enthusiastic geographer, Northwestern was a peculiar interlude. I published 
enough books and articles on Africa to get tenured before I was 30. I also pub- 
lished my first serious attempt to retheorize political geography, an AAG 
Resource Paper on The Political Organization of Space (1971), in which I 
explored human territoriality as central to the study of comparative politics. But 
there was little to re-excite my geographical imagination. I needed a change and 
in 1972 I joined the Urban Planning Department at UCLA and have been there 
ever since. 

The spatial turn begins in Paris 

The 1960s saw explosive urban unrest spread around the world and from the rub- 
ble and ashes grew a revolutionary new way to think about space and the power- 
ful effects of specifically urban spatiality on human behavior and societal 
development. I missed this largely Parisian revolution in spatial thinking, having 
been primarily absorbed in and diverted by the so-called and primarily Anglo- 
American quantitative and theoretical revolution in geography. What was hap- 
pening in Paris, however, was much deeper and broader. A new way of thinking 
about space and its forceful effects was beginning to take shape, reversing a 

1 8 Edward W. Soja 

hundred years of historicist hegemony in which specifically urban spatial causal- 
ity, what would much later be called the stimulus of urban agglomeration, was 
buried under the privileging of historical and social theoretical discourses. 

Up until the late 1960s, the only significant academic movement promoting a 
forceful spatial perspective was the Chicago School of Urban Ecology. For a brief 
moment in the interwar years, a band of determined spatializers centered in the 
departments of sociology and geography at the University of Chicago created a col- 
lective intellectual community aimed at exploring how human behavior is directly 
shaped by the urban environment. Crudely activating and empowering urban spa- 
tial causality via ecological processes, they saw the city generically as the "embod- 
iment of the real nature of human nature ... an expression of mankind in general 
and specifically of the social relations generated by territoriality" (Janowitz 1967). 
For most social scientists this ecological spatialization went too far and after World 
War II the influence of the Chicago School deteriorated, kept skeletally alive only 
in narrow strands of urban economics and urban geography. What happened in the 
late 1960s in Paris was therefore highly unexpected, nearly incomprehensible, and 
thoroughly easy to ignore, at least in the English-speaking world. 

The two major figures in this peremptory and soon deflected initiation of the 
Spatial Turn were Henri Lefebvre and Michel Foucault. We know very little 
about how they influenced each other if at all - several books and dissertations 
are needed on this subject - but their co-presence in Paris at this unsettled time is 
undeniable and so too is their nearly simultaneous development of essentially 
similar ideas about the ontological significance of space and the powerful forces 
that emanate from the spatiality of human life (Soja 1989, 1996). The coinci- 
dences, literally and figuratively, are remarkable. 

The French intellectual tradition has always had a greater spatial sensibility 
than the Anglo-Germanic, from the philosophes (Montesquieu, Rousseau, 
Voltaire) of the eighteenth century to the twentieth-century surrealists, situation- 
ists, and historians of the Annales school (e.g. Braudel), and there were many 
thinking and writing about space, geography, and urbanism in 1960s Paris. But 
only Lefebvre and Foucault explicitly began a radical rethinking of the ontologi- 
cal, epistemological, and theoretical relations between space and time and, by 
implication rather than direct discussion, geography and history. From the con- 
temporary perspective of the Spatial Turn, one can read into their writings a series 
of reconfigurative arguments. 

Retheorizing space 

The foundational moment for what would eventually become the Spatial Turn 
was an assertion of the ontological parity of space and time, that each was form- 
ative of the other at a most basic existential level, with neither being intrinsically 
privileged. Foucault, uncharacteristically, was most explicit about this in his 
lecture notes for a radio presentation published as Des Espace Autres or "Of 
Other Spaces" (Foucault 1986). After noting earlier tendencies in French philos- 
ophy via Bergson to privilege history, he asked almost sarcastically why is it that 

Taking space personally 19 

so many think of time as movement, dynamic, dialectic, development, process, 
while space is considered fixed, dead, unproblematic background, the stage or 
container of social processes and history. In this view, social causality and the 
force of human will was carried only by time and history, with space and geo- 
graphy merely reflecting the social drama, the essentially historical narrative. 

Rejecting this privileging of time over space, Foucault assertively placed the 
origins of this obsession with history, as he called it, in the second half of the 
nineteenth century, in what retrospectively can be described as a far-reaching 
ontological distortion of Western social thought. This subordination of space and 
spatial thinking was carried forward to the present via an engrained social his- 
toricism that has shaped all the social sciences as well as scientific socialism, 
Marx's essentialist historical materialism. What was needed, then, was a 
re-empowerment and rebalancing of the spatial-geographical with regard to this 
privileged social if not socialist historicism, without denying the latter' s extra- 
ordinary interpretive insights. 5 Both Lefebvre and Foucault would seek this 
counter-balancing reassertion of space through all their writings from the late 
1960s to their deaths. 

Both of these ardent spatializers would also develop the idea that existing 
modes of spatial thinking (even in France) were not adequate to the task of creat- 
ing ontological and epistemological parity between space and time, geography and 
history. Hence, each set about constructing a more comprehensive and enriched 
alternative mode of thinking about space that would build upon the strengths of 
existing spatial modes of thought but also move beyond them to open up new pos- 
sibilities for knowledge formation. Something like this had already happened in 
physics, with the triad of space-time-matter/energy; now it was time to do some- 
thing similar, analogous if not homologous, in the human sciences, a triple dialec- 
tic of the temporal-historical, the spatial-geographical, and the social-sociological 

Foucault called his 'other' way of thinking about space heterotopology and 
encouraged looking at every created space, from the most intimate spaces of the 
body and the home, to the global spaces of geopolitics and military conflict, as 
heterotopias, redefining this term to exemplify his different or heterotopological 
mode of thinking about all spaces. 6 Lefebvre opened up his alternative through 
his conceptualization of what he variously called lived space (espace vecu), 
spaces of representation, or representational spaces. Whatever English term is 
used, the task was to open up a new perspective, one that would be significantly 
different from what conventionally existed. 

Both shared the view that spatial thinking in the past has been fundamentally 
and, to some degree, restrictively, bicameral. Spatial discourse was dominated by 
two alternative modes, one emphasizing material conditions, mappable spatial 
forms, things in space (Lefebvre 's perceived space or spatial practices) and the 
other defined by mental or ideational imagery, representations, thoughts about 
space (Lefebvre' s conceived space). Both would also praise the best work using this 
bicameral duality and urge continued application, but at the same time Foucault and 
especially Lefebvre would discuss the critical limitations of each mode. 

20 Edward W. Soja 

Emphasizing the empirical expressions of spatial practices, that is, describing 
and interpreting material geographies, dominated traditional geographical analysis 
and produced significant and useful factual knowledge about the objective, real 
world. But there was a tendency to fixate on materialized surface appearances and 
directly measurable patternings, creating an illusion of opaqueness that could block 
deeper understanding of the causal forces underpinning these surface expressions. 
Similarly, another illusion arose from focusing too emphatically on representations 
or images of material spaces, on idealized visions of the world. Here the material 
geographies became translucent, lost in the luminous search for deep structures of 
causality as the imagined took precedence over the real. Again, brilliant achieve- 
ment was possible through this representational mode of spatial thinking, with both 
Foucault and Lefebvre noting in particular the work of Gaston Bachelard on The 
Poetics of Space (1969), but these representations were not enough. 

What was needed to rebalance spatiality with historicality and sociality was 
another, more comprehensive and combinatorial mode of spatial thinking, one 
that built upon the traditional dualities (material-mental, objective-subjective, 
empirical-conceptual) but moved the search for practical knowledge beyond their 
confines to open new ground to explore. Reacting politically in different ways to 
the events of May 1968 in Paris, Lefebvre and Foucault saw potential emancipa- 
tory power in a consciously spatial praxis based in a practical and political aware- 
ness that the geographies we have produced (or were produced for us) can 
negatively affect our lives but that we can act to change these unjust and oppres- 
sive geographies. Also clear to both was the necessity to lead spatial thinking in 
a new direction, for the old ways had too many dead ends. 

These creative intimations of a radical Spatial Turn, demanding a paradigm 
shift of wide-reaching transdisciplinary proportions, were not allowed to have 
a lasting effect. Emphasizing urban spatial causality was simply unacceptable 
for most Marxists, including the Marxist geographers and sociologists (David 
Harvey and Manuel Castells in particular) who were achieving growing influence 
in urban studies in the 1970s. Foucault was simply ignored for his presumed 
de-radicalized personal politics, while Lefebvre, recognized as one of the 
twentieth century's leading Marxist philosophers and urban thinkers, was praised 
for his insights but ultimately set aside for promoting urban spatial causality, even 
urban revolution, too intensely. 7 In the wake of these deflections, the Spatial Turn 
would remain undeveloped if not dormant for more than two decades. 

Geographer in exile 

I moved into Urban Planning at UCLA without realizing the professional and per- 
ceptual repercussions until much later. From the perspective of American geogra- 
phy as a discipline, my move seemed to indicate that I had turned in my identity as 
a true geographer. I remained a distant cousin perhaps, but was no longer part of the 
nuclear family. The move, however, was extraordinarily stimulating for me as a 
spatial theorist and advocate. Urban planning was not as tightly disciplined and 
intellectually introverted as geography. I had greater freedom and encouragement 

Taking space personally 21 

than I would ever have in a department of geography to expand my theoretical 
horizons and promote geographical ways of thinking — as long as I was willing to 
address at least some of the immediate needs of professional and practicing plan- 
ners. Indeed, the pressure to make theory practical, after some defensive waffling 
about the pureness of theory, sharpened my geographical imagination. 

At first, I immersed myself in the new Marxist geography and abandoned as ide- 
ologically diversionary distractions nearly all of the other approaches I had learned 
as a graduate student and young professor. I started anew, reborn not just as a geog- 
rapher but as a specifically and ardently Marxist geographer-cum-planner. This 
raised my spatial advocacy to an even higher pitch, as I now thought I could not only 
comprehend descriptively the human geographies that blanketed the surface of the 
earth but get underneath them to find the social processes and social relations of pro- 
duction and capitalist accumulation that were profoundly shaping spatial form. But 
why, I asked myself, weren't my radical comrades as enthusiastic about the stimu- 
lating powers of urban spatial causality, how spatial process shape social form? 

I came out again as a critical spatial theorist after a decade of rethinking and 
reading Lefebvre with the publication of "The Socio-spatial Dialectic" (Soja 
1980). In what was originally titled "Topian Marxism," I expressed my disap- 
pointment with Marxist geography's fealty to tradition and consequent failure to 
adequately explore the compelling power of the critical spatial imagination. The 
key argument, drawing heavily on Lefebvre, was that spatial processes shaped 
social form just as much as social processes shaped spatial form. It seemed so 
obvious to me that spatial relations of uneven development were just as impor- 
tant in theory and political practice as social relations of class. 

At first, I aimed my critique mainly at my fellow Marxist geographers, nearly 
all of whom at the time seemed unnecessarily wary, almost fearful, of giving 
explanatory power to anything other than social class, leading many to label me a 
spatial fetishist (albeit with deluded good intentions). I persisted nonetheless. 
Society is formatively spatialized from the start, I asserted, in much the same way 
as space is formatively socialized. Socialization and spatialization were intricately 
intertwined, interdependent and often in conflict. Neither the spatial nor the social 
should be privileged over the other, especially in the historical-geographical mate- 
rialism being so insightfully created by David Harvey and a few others. 

Building a much broader critique of all variants of modern geography, from the 
old positivism to the new Marxist, feminist, and cultural versions, I repeated my 
arguments more substantively in Postmodern Geographies (Soja 1989). In what 
I continue to consider my most important contribution to the critique of modern 
geography and to the Spatial Turn, I connected the socio-spatial dialectic to its 
philosophical twin, the mutually constructive interplay of history and geography, 
a spatio-temporal dialectic that, I argued, became ontologically distorted in the 
late nineteenth century (following Foucault) and has persisted to the present. 

Formulating this triple dialectic, or trialectic as I would later call it, and noting 
the persistently prioritized power of the socio-historical pairing over the socio- 
spatial and spatio-temporal, gave me new insight into why geography and critical 
spatial thinking had been so relatively and relationally neglected, so peripheralized 

22 Edward W. Soja 

in the academic and intellectual division of labor for at least the past century. 
Thinking spatially, the geographical imagination, and geography as a discipline 
had been effectively buried under a space-smothering social historicism, an epis- 
temological occlusion activated by a peculiar privileging of the social and histori- 
cal over the spatial that continues to shape contemporary social thought. Modern 
geography itself was also to blame, as it failed to see its internal restrictions in 
scope, ignoring the powerful critiques of Foucault and Lefebvre. 

Nearly everything I have written since 1989, especially including Thirdspace 
(1996) and Postmetropolis (2000), has been aimed at making essentially the same 
argument that was at the core of Postmodern Geographies. Over and over for 
nearly 20 years, I have been trying in many different ways to convince others of 
the extraordinary power of thinking spatially, using the socio-spatial dialectic to 
see not only how social processes shape and explain geographies but even more 
so how geographies shape and explain social processes and social action. The tri- 
alectic of spatiality-historicality-sociality and the associated recognition of urban 
spatial causality brought back into the contemporary discourse what Lefebvre and 
Foucault had called for in the late 1960s. For the present, strategically putting 
space first as an interpretive framework was necessary to address the nineteenth- 
century ontological distortion, combat the enduring force of social historicism, 
and introduce a new and different mode of critical spatial thinking and praxis. 

As I would discover much later, a younger generation of geographers received 
some inspiration from my work to explore beyond the conventional confines of 
modernist geography, tired of the titanic internal squabbles that were raging in the 
1980s between hegemonic positivism and rebellious Marxism, humanism, and 
feminism. For many more established senior geographers, however, my enthusi- 
astic advocacy of a new mode of spatial thinking was met with suspicion if not 
anger. Unusually harsh reviews by geographers made me realize that I was being 
perceived as creating my own personal version of geography, different than that 
which occupied the vast majority of geographers; and that by trumpeting its virtues 
I was simultaneously and perhaps solipsistically insulting these established geog- 
raphers for not being smart enough to explore my preferred way of thinking geo- 
graphically. For those outside the disciplined cocoon of geography, however, it 
was a different matter. By the mid-1990s, I had become an influential reference 
point for the growing number of newcomers to critical spatial thinking. 

The postmodernization of geography in Los Angeles 

To those who saw my writings after 1980 as marking a radical shift in perspec- 
tive, I would respond that I merely moved from studying the geography of mod- 
ernization (and the modernization of geography) in Kenya to investigating the 
geography of postmodernization (and the postmodernization of geography) in 
Los Angeles. What remained essentially the same was the driving force of my 
spatial advocacy. My writings on the astonishing transformations of the geogra- 
phy of Los Angeles gave invigorating support and a more compelling power to 
my theoretical critique. 

Taking space personally 23 

I do not intend to rehash the debates on postmodernism in geography here, nor 
will I try to defend the idea of a Los Angeles "school" of critical urban studies. 8 
What needs to be said, however, is that over the 35 years that I have been a pro- 
fessor of urban planning at UCLA, I have been unusually fortunate to be exposed 
to a truly remarkable agglomeration of creative spatial thinkers. Whatever I may 
have achieved arises from being part of this incomparable group of scholars, a par- 
tial listing of which would include Allen Scott, John Friedmann, Michael Storper, 
Margaret FitzSimmons, Mike Davis, Dolores Hayden, Susan Christopherson, 
Nicholas Entrikin, John Agnew, Costis Hadjimichalis, Dina Vaiou, Goetz Wolff, 
Marco Cenzatti, Margaret Crawford, Paul Ong, Clyde Woods, Charles Jencks, 
William A.V. Clark, Susan Ruddick, Barbara Hooper, Mustafa Dikec, Olivier 
Kramsch, Ferrucio Trabalzi, Julie-Anne Boudreau, to name just those affiliated in 
some way with urban planning and geography at UCLA. 

Los Angeles proved to be an extraordinary laboratory for the production of 
spatial theory, for exploring urban spatial causality in its many expressions, and 
for demonstrating the insightful power of a critical spatial perspective. Los 
Angeles-based research and writing played an important role in stimulating the 
Spatial Turn and spreading spatial thinking across a growing number of subject 
areas. Perhaps inevitably, the body of work emanating from the spatial thinkers 
of Los Angeles has also generated criticism, especially from those who perceived 
its enthusiastic assertiveness as the imposition of a LA-specific model and mode 
of thinking in places where it does not fit, or as arrogantly defining an exclusive 
and self-referential club (Gottdiener 2002). In balance, however, there is some 
justification in concluding that if the Spatial Turn began in Paris, only to fade 
from view, it arose again with renewed force in Los Angeles. 

Thinking spatially about Los Angeles, while based on rich empirical detail, 
was intentionally more nomothetic, aimed at producing generalizable knowledge, 
than was the case for most urban research. The aim was not to show the unparal- 
leled uniqueness of the city but rather how localized knowledge can help to 
understand what is happening in other cities around the world. Los Angeles 
served as a laboratory, a hypothetical continent, for developing new urban theo- 
ries focused on the restructuring processes that have been reshaping cities every- 
where in the past forty years, in particular the formation of a new (post-Fordist, 
flexible, information-based) economy, the globalization of capital, labor, and cul- 
ture, and the development of new information and communications technologies. 
This work added to what was already a key feature of the Spatial Turn, its over- 
lap with a resurgence of interest in cities and regions. For many around the world 
and in practically every discipline, the Spatial Turn has also been a turn to urban 
and/or regional studies as well. 

Beyond geography: the widening scope of the spatial turn 

As a cumulative and fast-flowing diffusion of a spatial perspective across nearly 
every discipline, the Spatial Turn burst onto the academic scene some time in the 
mid-1990s. Viewed from the standpoint of the traditionally spatial disciplines, 

24 Edward W. Soja 

geography and architecture in particular, this spreading spatial advocacy was 
more of a heterogeneous and eclectic expansion than an actual redirection of geo- 
graphical thought and spatial theory. What was once confined primarily to the 
core of these disciplines was expanding into an almost untouched periphery, 
much like the spreading urbanization of suburbia and the rise of new industrial 
spaces that was transforming the modern metropolis in the last decades of the 
twentieth century (Soja 2000). Beyond the boundaries of geography, where rela- 
tively aspatial intellectual landscapes prevailed, creative new clusters of spatial 
thinking and interpretation started to form. A spatially lifeless periphery was 
becoming actively spatialized, rather superficially in some areas but much more 
deeply energizing in others. 

As spatial thinking began to flourish outside geography, most geographers 
remained relatively unaware or indifferent. The few that cared welcomed their 
newly spatialized colleagues, but often assigned them a subordinate role in the 
intellectual division of geographical labor. They were responsible for metaphori- 
cal and aesthetic assembly, for example, but design and creativity were kept at 
home, in the inner sanctums of the newly formed but loosely defined subfield of 
critical human geography. Most attempts to break open the disciplinary cocoon 
to alternative spatial perspectives were typically deflected away or summarily 
dismissed, as probably the majority of geographers reacted to the Spatial Turn by 
defending their traditional modernist turf. 

The defensive disciplinary response often involved a vigorous rejection of the 
postmodernist critiques that were so closely associated with the Spatial Turn. 
Over the past ten years, the positivist and descriptive core of geographical analy- 
sis has refortified its centrality, sustained in part by large flows of financial sup- 
port for the advancement of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At the 
same time, the older critical periphery, consisting of only occasionally intersect- 
ing strands of relatively orthodox Marxism, feminism, and deeply rooted cultural 
geography, has been struggling to retain its former spheres of influence in a now 
dramatically expanded academic world of geographical inquiry. 

The critical fringe has been far from silent in the development of critical spatial 
theory. While many were defensive and inward-looking, others such as David 
Harvey, Doreen Massey, Derek Gregory, Gillian Rose, Neil Smith, and Denis 
Cosgrove reached out to engage with a growing range of disciplines, effectively dif- 
fusing critical spatial perspectives in many different directions. After the mid-1990s, 
however, leadership began to shift to a generation of critical geographers who 
moved beyond their Marxist, feminist, or cultural geography roots to explore new 
ground through direct engagement with such fields as economics, anthropology, 
psychoanalysis, film studies, literary criticism, and international relations. Through 
a process of hybridization, it has become increasingly difficult today to draw bound- 
aries between who is a geographer and who is not, for the unprecedented transdisci- 
plinarity of the Spatial Turn is making almost every scholar a geographer to some 
degree, in much the same way that every scholar is to some degree a historian. 

It is probably safe to say, however, that the Spatial Turn today, while drawing 
on a significant number of scholars trained in geography, has been having its 

Taking space personally 25 

deepest effect outside the discipline. This reconfigurative diffusion of spatial think- 
ing has progressed in stages, advancing with great unevenness in the social sciences 9 
but with unusually broad effect across the humanities. The initial stage of diffusion 
has been simply additive, involving the widespread use of spatial terminology and 
metaphors such as mapping, regions, place, space, territory, location, geography, 
cartography to suggest at least a dimensional spatiality to whatever subject is being 
discussed. I would think that every discipline in the human as well as the physical 
and medical sciences (regions of the brain, atlases of human anatomy) has in one 
way or another experienced at least this level of spatialization. 10 

This widespread adoption of spatial terms is not insignificant, for it is indica- 
tive of a growing change in awareness of and familiarity with the relevance 
of space and geography. It has been assisted by the new technologies of infor- 
matics, multi-media communications, and the internet, especially given the per- 
sistence of such encompassing and evocative terms as cyberspace and the 
widespread use of Global Positioning Systems, GIS, and Google Earth. The 
growing attention to economic and environmental globalization processes has 
also been an important factor in spreading a broad overlay of spatial discourse. It 
is no longer such a peculiar surprise to see a geographer join the "history boys" 
and other recognized pundits to give perspective to the television news or com- 
ment on major current events. 

In some areas, spatialization has sparked the development of growing research 
and teaching clusters specializing in spatial thinking and analysis. Plugging "spa- 
tial turn" into a computer's search engine brings up the following fields where the 
specific term is being used: cultural studies, cultural theory, critical theory, litera- 
ture, film, history of science, history, environmental studies, organizational theory, 
media studies, comparative education, philosophy, historical sociology, sociolog- 
ical analysis, poetry, Hispanic literature, religion, theology, Bible studies, plan- 
ning practice, history and sociology of education, accounting, philosophy. 

The Spatial Turn is seen by many as following other "turns" such as the linguis- 
tic, cultural, and postmodern. However such sequencing is defined, the Spatial Turn 
has evolved with close connections to critical cultural studies, with particular atten- 
tion given to such spatially insightful postcolonial cultural critics as Edward Said, 
Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, and Arjun Appadurai. The cultural studies connec- 
tions have also helped to extend critical spatial thinking into anthropology and the 
new ethnography, feminist and anti-racist critiques, media and communications 
studies, and comparative literature and literary criticism, including such specialized 
areas as Latina novel-writing and poetry. (For more on these fields of critical 
spatial discourse, see other chapters in this volume as well as n. 10.) 

A recent publication (Brauch et al. 2008) illustrates the extraordinary effects of 
the Spatial Turn in a highly specialized subfield. Jewish Topographies: Visions of 
Space, Traditions of Place is the product of an interdisciplinary research group at 
the University of Potsdam, Germany, which over its life has produced about 30 
dissertations and numerous articles, books, and exhibitions. The book explicitly 
builds on critiques of historicism, Lefebvre's triad of perceived-conceived-lived 
spaces, and other core ideas that have impelled the Spatial Turn everywhere. 

26 Edward W. Soja 

There is also a list of "Conferences on Jewish Space" that have been taking place 
around the world since 1990, the most recent of which have been several in 
Potsdam and others at Stanford University (2003), Perm State (2004), University 
of Cape Town (2005 and 2007), Vilnius, Lithuania (2006), Lehigh University 
(2007), Karl-Franzens University in Graz, Austria (2007), and the International 
Cultural Centre in Krakow, Poland (2007). 

Each of these more specialized spatial turns has its own geohistory that needs 
to be written, but I will take a closer look here at four disciplinary clusters where, 
from my own personal experience, the Spatial Turn has been particularly inter- 
esting and creative. 

Thinking spatially in the visual arts 

Art historians, critics, and practicing artists were among the first to respond posi- 
tively to Postmodern Geographies after its publication in 1989. Some geographers 
saw my arguments as deeply flawed by an arrogant if not authoritarian masculin- 
ism that was amplified even further in David Harvey's The Condition of 
Postmodernity, published in the same year (Massey 1991). This emerging feminist 
critique included a particularly cutting attack on "men in space" by Rosalyn 
Deutsche (1996), an established art historian and critic who had already begun to 
explore the various new geographies. 11 While the feminist critiques deflected atten- 
tion from Postmodern Geographies within geography, especially in England, 
Deutsche' s writings may have given added interest to it in the theory and practice 
of the visual arts. 

Well before these critiques, however, several art scholars went right to the 
heart of my critique of historicism and the ontological distortion that privileged 
time over space, history over geography, since the mid-nineteenth century. 
I learned from them that their field had experienced a mini-spatial turn in the 
interwar years, inspired largely by Walter Benjamin. Benjamin and others recog- 
nized the degree to which the critical power of the historical narrative could 
choke off an appropriate appreciation for visual and spatial representation in art. 
Benjamin effectively "spatialized time," cracking open the narrative's strangle- 
hold to allow the visual and spatial to flourish (Gregory 1994: 234). These 
debates, however, were never formally theorized by art scholars and instead 
entered almost subliminally into the disciplinary culture. I was seen as bringing 
these ideas to the surface again and presenting a more detailed and philosophical 
theorization, linking the reassertion of space to structuralist (including Marxist) 
critiques, probing beneath surface appearances to see the social class and other 
personal and political forces shaping the creative impulse. 

Another line of connection came from my discussion of John Berger, one of 
the world's leading art and literary critics and a creative specialist in what he has 
called "ways of seeing." Berger's writings (1972, 1974, 1984) have been espe- 
cially sensitive to the reassertion of space versus time in the arts and literature and 
he can be seen, along with Lefebvre and Foucault, as an early purveyor of the 
Spatial Turn. His critique of social historicism is brilliantly conveyed in the 

Taking space personally 27 

following passage, where he moves from the declining symbolic power of 
portrait painting to the crisis of the modern novel. 

We hear a lot about the crisis of the modern novel. What this involves, fun- 
damentally, is a change in the mode of narration. It is scarcely any longer pos- 
sible to tell a straight story sequentially unfolding in time. And this is because 
we are too aware of what is continually traversing the storyline laterally. That 
is to say, instead of being aware of a point as an infinitely small part of a 
straight line, we are aware of it as an infinitely small part of an infinite number 
of lines, as the centre of a star of lines. Such awareness is the result of our con- 
stantly having to take into account the simultaneity and extension of events 
and possibilities . . . Prophesy now involves a geographical rather than his- 
torical projection; it is space not time that hides consequences from us . . . Any 
contemporary narrative that ignores the urgency of this dimension is incom- 
plete and acquires the oversimplified character of a fable. 

(Berger 1974: 40) 

My work reached an expanded audience of artists and urban activists after an 
appearance as one of the 100 Guests presenting lectures over the 100 Days of 
Documenta X in 1997, the world's largest art exhibition, held every four years in 
Kassel, Germany. Documenta X, directed by the French curator Catherine David, 
was aimed at reviving art as a political instrument and strategy of urban protest. 
It was also rooted in a reassertion of the spatial writings of Foucault and Lefebvre 
and successfully stimulated a significant expansion of interest in urban spatial 
causality and politics among visual and performance artists. 

Ever since 1997, 1 have been invited by many groups of arts scholars and prac- 
titioners to lecture specifically on the Spatial Turn and related topics. These 
include a keynote address on "The City as a Vehicle for Visual Representation" 
at the annual meeting of the International Association of Art Critics held at the 
Tate Modern in London in 2000; a lecture and workshop at Arteleku, the leading 
Catalan art center and museum in San Sebastian, Spain, in the same year; pre- 
sentations at the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles (2002), the Museum of 
Contemporary Art in Belgrade, Serbia (2006), the Andalusian Center for 
Contemporary Art in Seville, Spain (2006), the Kampnagel Art Center in 
Hamburg, Germany (2007); and a keynote address at a conference on "Sense of 
Place" organized by Site-ations International and the European Artists Network 
in Sligo, Ireland (2006). 12 

The Spatial Turn, especially in tune with urban activism, seems to be particu- 
larly well established in the visual arts and is expanding in innovative directions, 
with spillovers taking place in music, dance and choreography (the Greek term 
choros having close connections to space and geography), performance art 
(Gomez-Peha 1993), and other areas. An especially fertile arena for creative 
injections of a critical spatial perspective has been film studies, where the space- 
time relation and the links between cinema and the city have received particular 
attention (Bruno 2007; Sobchak 1997; Clarke 1997; Al Sayyad 2006). Both the 

28 Edward W. Soja 

visual arts and film studies are likely to expand significantly in the future as 
crossroads for productive interaction between new and old geographers. 

God, space, and the city: the spatial turn in theology 

I discovered several years ago at a conference at the Chicago Divinity School where 
I was asked to speak about the Spatial Turn and critical spatial theory as it relates 
to the reconceptualization of Nature that my work had become very popular in the 
esoteric field of eschatology, the study of end-states such as heaven and hell (Soja 
on "Seeing Nature Spatially" in Albertson and King 2008). I had become aware 
earlier that my work was being widely used in Bible studies (Flanagan 1999, 2001; 
Kohn 2006), but eschatology? What was going on here? It was explained to me that 
eschatologists were using Thirdspace (1996) and my concepts of critical thirding- 
as-othering and trialectics as a means of opening up new ways to explore the mul- 
tiplicity of dimensions through which heaven and hell could be described as 
putative lived spaces. The Spatial Turn had seemingly reached its outer limits. 

My inquiries led to an invitation to a conference on "God/City/Place: 
Interdisciplinary Perspectives," held at the Lincoln Theological Institute of the 
University of Manchester in 2006. There I addressed a plenary audience of criti- 
cal and political theologians and commented on a Swedish scholar's dissertation 
on eschatological spaces. I learned rather quickly that theology, as much as any 
other field, specializes in rhetoric, the art of developing convincing arguments, 
and in order to hone these rhetorical skills theologians closely follow develop- 
ments in the field of critical and cultural studies. For many years now, significant 
attention has been given in various subfields of theology to critical spatial theory 
and progressive if not radical urban spatial politics. 

In "Theology in its Spatial Turn: Space, Place and Built Environmental 
Challenging and Changing the Images of God," Sigurd Bergmann (2007), of the 
Department of Archeology and Religious Studies, Norwegian University of 
Science and Technology, summarizes and explains theology's forays into spatial 
thinking. He writes that "Theology's reflections about space and place provide a 
deep challenge and an urgent necessity for theology to become aware of its 
embeddedness in the existential spatiality of life." More specifically, he goes on 
to discuss 

the space of Creation, God's spatiality, the loss of place, and spiritual prac- 
tices as well as justice, redemption and aesth/ethics [sic] in the built envi- 
ronment and the ecological city . . . [and also] God in the city, lived religion, 
architecture, eco-feminism, geography and religion, land, new religiosities, 
pilgrimage, movement and mobility. 

Drawing heavily on Thirdspace is "The Trialectics of Biblical Studies" 
(Flanagan 2001), presented first as a presidential address to a biblical society and 
presented again to a meeting of archeologists at a "Construction of Ancient Space 
Seminar," where many different scholars explored the relevance of spatial 

Taking space personally 29 

perspectives to research on the ancient world and especially debates on the ori- 
gins and development of cities (Berquist 2002). The Spatial Turn in theology is 
interesting in itself for its breadth, depth, and seriousness, but it also serves as a 
bridge into another specialized realm where the Spatial Turn has even deeper 
roots and has progressed even further. 

Archeology and urban spatial causality 

No other discipline has been as closely tied to geography and the development 
of spatial theory in all its forms as archeology. I remember when I was a student 
at Syracuse being told that central place theory was being used by archeologists 
(somewhere in Turkey, if I remember correctly) to project the likely location of 
the largest trading centers in a network of urban settlements in which only a few 
smaller sites had been found. It was exciting to discover how useful analyses of 
point patterns on the plane could be. I would learn later that a new subfield called 
processual archeology was built heavily on the spatial science being developed in 
geography starting in the 1960s. 13 

Particularly entwined with developments in geography was the leading archeo- 
logical theoretician, Ian Hodder, whose father I had known as a prominent Africanist. 
Hodder's theoretical archeology evolved in close association with developments in 
spatial theory, from the quantitative geography and location theories of positivist 
geography, through the three main strands of the Marxist-structuralist, feminist, 
and cultural-phenomenological critiques of positivist geography, to the (post- 
processual) eclecticism that emerged from more recent postmodern, postcolonial, 
and poststructuralist critiques. His approach has always been carefully selective and 
rooted in the practical needs of archeological investigation, but Hodder has orches- 
trated an unusually intricate and intimate connection between geography and arche- 
ology that is unparalleled in any other discipline, a somewhat ironic engagement 
given the inherent attractions of archeology to historicism. 

I discovered Hodder's spatializing most revealingly through a nearly 9,000- 
year-old wall painting that would also open up for me surprising connections to 
a wider field of contemporary geographical economics. Let me explore this 
panoramic urban mural further, for it illustrates the extraordinary insights being 
generated by the Spatial Turn in our understanding of both the past and present. 
In the late 1990s I worked with the very spatial sociologist and urban planner 
Janet Abu-Lughod (who I met back in my Northwestern days) on a joint project 
for the Getty Trust on the Arts of Citybuilding. We were hoping to connect the 
critical traditions of art and urban studies in creative new ways, building on the 
connections between art and spatial theory mentioned earlier. As part of my work 
on the project, which was never completed, I looked at how the city and urban 
landscape of Los Angeles had been depicted in paintings in the twentieth century. 

My research and writing on Painting Los Angeles was never published, but it 
led me to one of the most exciting discoveries in my geographical life. I had been 
thinking for some time that perhaps all creative art is in one way or another urban 
art, generated in the dynamic crucible of urban life, the spatial specificity of 

30 Edward W. Soja 

urbanism. I explored the voluminous classic texts on art history (those history 
boys again) looking for what was considered urban art, but could find no mention 
whatsoever of anything resembling urban spatial causality. The Spatial Turn in 
art history had not yet reached the textbooks. But there seemed to be some agree- 
ment among the texts on what is considered to be the oldest known "landscape" 
painting: a mural painted in bold colors on two walls of a house in a settlement 
called Catalhoyuk in south-central Anatolia around 6500 bc. 

The wall painting consisted of dozens of what looked like the footprints of 
housing compounds strung together beneath an apparently erupting cinnabar- 
colored volcano. There was a suggestion in the Guinness Book of World Records 
that this was the world's first nature painting, but it was neither a nature painting 
nor a true landscape. It was a cityscape, the earliest known painting of a perma- 
nent urban settlement, the first intentionally built environment. The mural cap- 
tured the movement from the raw to the cooked, pristine to transformed Nature, 
nomadic hunting and gathering to a settled and sedentary life in one location, in 
other words the beginnings of the urbanization process. It depicted not animals 
and hunters or colorful geometric patterns but rather a specifically urban scene. 

As I dug further into the urban art of Catalhoyuk, Ian Hodder appeared at the 
forefront. Hodder's first major and still ongoing archeological excavation, his 
major move from theory to practice, was in Catalhoyuk, following in the foot- 
steps of his archeological and theoretical mentor, James Mellaart. Mellaart started 
the excavation of the site in the 1960s and had published a widely read and con- 
troversial article (Mellaart 1964) that claimed (^atalhoyiik was the first Neolithic 
city, a "metropolis" originally consisting not of farmers but mainly of hunters and 
gatherers who were also engaged in long-distance trade. 14 One of the vital com- 
modities for Stone Age peoples was obsidian or volcanic glass, an obvious refer- 
ence to the red mountain erupting in the wall painting. 15 1 would later find out that 
obsidian was polished at Catalhoyuk to create the oldest known handcrafted 
mirror, as much a form of self-contemplation as the wall painting itself. 

Obsidian and the wall painting also connected my research, to my great sur- 
prise, to Jane Jacobs and, through her observations on Catalhoyuk, to her aston- 
ishing idea that cities and the urbanization process may have been the primary 
generative source of creativity, innovation, and societal development for the past 
12,000 years. Without cities, Jacobs argued, we would all be poor. 16 We would 
have remained nomadic hunters and gatherers as we had been for millions of 
years before settling down in one place. In The Economy of Cities (1969), Jacobs 
built on Mellaart's work, hypothesized an even earlier start to the urbanization 
process in a place she called New Obsidian, and developed the idea that the 
'spark' of urban economic life was the primary cause of all economic growth and 
change, including the full-scale development of agriculture and animal hus- 
bandry, along with many other specialized production activities. 17 

Jacobs 's economic spark was her answer to the magisterial anti-urbanism of 
Lewis Mumford's The City in History (1961). It also represented one of the bold- 
est assertions of urban spatial causality in the twentieth century, but like the 
spatial assertiveness of Lefebvre and Foucault in the same period it would be 

Taking space personally 3 1 

misunderstood and even more quickly dismissed as fanciful exaggeration. It 
would, however, be picked up again by such economic geographers as Allen 
Scott and Michael Storper and resurrected as a Nobel prize-worthy breakthrough 
in economic theory by a new and growing group of geographical economists who 
now speak of the stimulus of urban agglomeration as Jane Jacobs externalities. 18 
These urbanization economies, as they were earlier called, with their vivid evo- 
cations of urban spatial causality, are beginning to enter the economic textbooks 
as the primary cause of economic development in the world today. 19 

The debates on Catalhoyiik and what I have called "synekism," the stimulus of 
urban agglomeration (Soja 2000), link the spatialization of archeology to the 
frontiers of contemporary spatial thinking in urban and regional economics, and 
to what may be the most revolutionary breakthrough to have emerged from the 
Spatial Turn: that cities and in particular their social spatialities are today - as 
they have been for the past 12,000 years - the primary force for artistic creativ- 
ity, economic innovation, technological change, and societal development. 
Twenty years ago, such an idea would have been inconceivable, even absurd. 
Today it is at the forefront of the Spatial Turn. 

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Lucas's (1988) bow to Jacobs, 
implying that she too deserved a Nobel Prize, was largely absorbed aspatially into 
the emerging conceptualization of human capital. A few years later, a small band 
of geographical economists and urban and regional economists and geographers 
began to raise the idea again, but at first it too was largely ignored or deflected in 
the growing attention given to notions of social capital. Over the past decade, 
however, as spatial sensibilities spread more widely than they ever have in the 
past century and a half, a respectful acceptance has begun to consolidate. The 
next step is likely to be the emergence of a powerful concept of spatial capital, 
giving urban spatial causality and the socio-spatial dialectic their long-deserved 

Law and spatial justice: a final note 

For many years, spatial thinking and geographical perspectives have been partic- 
ularly influential in law and critical legal studies. Nicholas Blomley, a geogra- 
pher, led the way early on in Law, Space, and the Geographies of Power (1994) 
and later began a productive interaction with two legal scholars, Richard 
Thompson Ford and David Delaney, his co-editors of the comprehensive Legal 
Geographies Reader (Delaney et al. 2001). Concepts of territory, jurisdictional 
boundaries, zoning, property rights, public space, and racial geographies are at 
the core of this collection of papers and the work of its three editors, and have 
sparked a continued partnership between law and critical spatial studies. 

Emanating from this cross-fertilization of law and geography has been another 
stream of scholarship rethinking in increasingly spatial terms such concepts as 
justice, democracy, citizenship, governmentality, and human rights. It is here, 
where my current research and writing is concentrated, that I wish to conclude 
this essay on the Spatial Turn. I started writing on "Seeking Spatial Justice" in 

32 Edward W. Soja 

Postmetropolis, and have been working and lecturing on this subject ever since, 
building on such sources as John Rawls and his legal theory of justice, the criti- 
cal expansion and spatialization of the concept of justice found in David Harvey's 
Social Justice and the City (1973), and several more recent extensions by Iris 
Marion Young (1990 and 2000) and Gerald Frug (1993) on the related notion of 
democratic regionalism. 

The concept of spatial justice is not meant as a substitute for social, economic, 
or any other form of justice, but represents and encourages a strategic and theo- 
retical emphasis on the specifically (and often neglected) spatial aspects of jus- 
tice and injustice, including how they are embedded in urban spatial causality. 
This points to questions of distributional equity but also focuses on making the 
processes producing unjust results more equitable or, paraphrasing Harvey's 
notion of territorial justice, seeking just outcomes that are justly arrived at. As 
Mustafa Dikec (2001) notes in "Justice and the spatial imagination," there is 
injustice and justice built into the spatiality of our lives and a relevant spatiality 
to (injustice itself. This conceptualization of spatial or territorial justice, like the 
Spatial Turn, started to develop in the 1960s and early 1970s but advanced very 
little until the mid-1990s, when it began to be revived and reconceptualized 
within the context of contemporary urban spatial politics (Soja 2007). 

Of particular importance and relevance to the theory and practice of spatial jus- 
tice today, as well as to advancing the Spatial Turn, has been the rediscovery of 
Lefebvre's idea of le droit a la ville, or the right(s) to the city, once the rallying 
cry for the events of May 1968 in Paris (Lefebvre 1996). In perhaps the strongest 
and most successful extension of the Spatial Turn into political practice, the 
notion of rights to the city, concretizing calls for universal human rights by 
embedding them in specifically urban spatial contexts and causalities, has been 
mobilizing multi-scalar political movements, reaching from community-based 
organizations and coalitions struggling for better housing and public transport to 
regional and national efforts to reduce spatial inequalities in wealth and well- 
being and achieve more democratic distributions of power, to global "civil 
society" movements aimed at peace and justice in international and environmen- 
tal geopolitics (World Social Forum 2005). 

More than ever before, these multi-scalar efforts are consciously and strategi- 
cally spatial struggles based in a new critical spatial imagination that draws on 
what Lefebvre and Foucault were arguing more than thirty years ago: that 1) we 
live in socially produced spaces that are predominantly urban and almost entirely 
urbanized; 2) because they are socially produced rather than naturally given, 
these urbanized spaces are subject to being changed through social action; 3) the 
urban geographies in which we live produce powerful negative as well as posi- 
tive effects on our lives; and 4) the injustices and oppression that are built into 
our geographies can become a strategic force for mobilizing and organizing inno- 
vative forms of spatial praxis aimed explicitly at achieving greater spatial justice 
and "glocal" democracy, stretching across all the nested geographical scales in 
which we live. Joining together to foster greater spatial justice may in the end be 
the best way to promote and expand the Spatial Turn today and in the future. 

Taking space personally 33 


1 If you have seen the film The History Boys, based on the award- winning play by Alan 
Bennett, you will remember that the title referred to the eight brightest students at a 
grammar school in northern England who are assiduously educated to obtain entry to 
Oxford or Cambridge, which all successfully do. They share a deep interest in history 
and debate its merits and complexity adeptly, assisted by the history teacher, seem- 
ingly the most balanced and perceptive of the teaching staff. But do you remember the 
primary villain, a sniveling headmaster who basks in the students' accomplishment 
and seems never to understand their cleverness? While interviewing someone he hopes 
can help the students spice up their test essays, he admits that he did not go to Oxford 
or Cambridge. "It was the 50s after all," he said. "It was a more adventurous time. 
I was a geographer and went to Hull." One could almost hear the audience snigger, a 
geographer at a minor university being almost as far away from the history boys as one 
can be. It was the almost subliminal matter-of-factness of the historian's superiority 
that came through most clearly to me. 

2 I returned to my Bronx neighborhood in the early 1970s after being away for more 
than a decade only to discover that the tenement building in which I grew up had that 
day begun to be razed. The wrecking ball had just taken one swipe before work ended, 
scooping out the corner of the fifth floor that was my family's home. Once so solid, 
my early lived space had melted into air, a prelude to a series of urban regeneration 
projects that would pave over my street corner, erect and then raze a string of tower 
blocks, and eventually produce the bizarre suburban row houses that exist there today. 

3 I would first visit Andorra in 2007, along with Abel Albet and Nuria Benach, with 
whom I would share my autobiographical notes to help in their preparation of a book 
on my work in Spanish (see Benach and Albet 2008). 

4 I could run for a bit with my colleagues and their students. I even did a network analy- 
sis of connectivity in the Nigerian transport system that identified a zone of peak 
accessibility that I suggested should be the place for a new capital city. Ironically, and 
without reference to my work, the Nigerian government would later shift the capital 
from Lagos to Abuja, right in the center of my peak access zone. 

5 I want to emphasize here and elsewhere that the critique of social historicism does not 
entail an antagonism to history and historiography, nor does it represent the assertion of 
a privileged spatialism or spatial determinism. The aim is to achieve a critical (rebal- 
ancing of space and time, spatial-geographical and temporal-historical perspectives. 

6 Many have taken Foucault's heterotopia to mean a specific kind of space. My view is 
that it represented a way of looking at any space, a particular perspective rather than a 
particular spatial form. Supporting my view is Daniel Defert, a close friend and asso- 
ciate of Foucault, in his essay accompanying the online advertisement of a CD record- 
ing of Foucault's 1966 radio lecture on his notion of heterotopology. To access this 
essay, see 

7 Lefebvre's former student, Manuel Castells, called him the left-wing version of the 
Chicago School ideology in his redefinition of the "urban question" (Castells 1972). 

8 Michael Dear (2000, 2002) has taken on the tasks of defending his brand of postmod- 
ernism against all others, and publicizing his own interpretations of Los Angeles and 
the Los Angeles "school." They are not mine. 

9 Economics, after a peripheral flirtation with positivist geography and regional science, 
has experienced perhaps the most emphatic Spatial Turn in recent years, at least in 
terms of developing the strongest assertion of the power of urban spatial causality. See 
the discussion of Jane Jacobs below. Anthropology in its new urban focus and contin- 
ued interpretations of culture has been creatively spatial as well (Gupta and Ferguson 
1997; Ferguson and Gupta 2002). Sociology, especially in the US, has experienced a 
"rise of spatial metaphors" (Silber 1995) but on the whole has been relatively non- 
receptive if not antagonistic to the Spatial Turn, especially in the relative decline of 


Edward W. Soja 

specifically urban sociology and the deep suspicion of any hint of urban spatial causal- 
ity, due perhaps to continued reactions to the crude causality of the old Chicago 
School. Also relatively weak as yet is the spatialization of Psychology and Political 
Science, but for the latter see the interesting work of Kohn (2003). While written by a 
geographer-planner, Engin Isin's Being Political (2002) is the most insightful asser- 
tion of the essential urban spatiality of politics, drawing on Aristotle as well as 
Foucault and Lefebvre. 

10 As I was finishing this essay, I discovered a most remarkable website for surveying the lit- 
erature on space and place, htm, organized and 
maintained by Bruce Janz of the Department of Philosophy, University of Central Florida, 
it contains nearly a thousand references in around 40 different fields, ranging from queer 
theory to animal biology to urban and regional planning. Not all references apply to what 
I am calling the Spatial Turn, but the listings can keep the spatial thinker and bibliophile 
occupied for many hours. 

1 1 See the essays on "Men in Space" and "Boys Town" in Deutsche (1996). 

12 At the Tate Modern in 2000, 1 met with the then-curator Iwona Blazwick and we dis- 
cussed the growing interest in space and urbanism among artists. At that time, 
I thought these interests primarily involved increasing attention to architecture, but 
instead the curator was deeply informed of my work and that of Foucault, Lefebvre, 
David Harvey, and Fredric Jameson. In the conversation that ensued, I mentioned my 
playful characterization of John Berger as an "art geographer" and was told that the 
Tate was advertising for two art geographers to enhance their spatial communications 
with surrounding neighborhoods and the Greater London area as well as to help in 
organizing an upcoming exhibition on global cities. 

13 For more details on the early connections between Archeology and Geography, see 
Hodder and Orton 1979; Wagstaff 1987; Gamble 1987; and Clarke 1992. 

14 Why farmers would cluster in permanent settlements of 2,000 and more inhabitants is 
not easy to explain. Contemporary archeological evidence suggests that the first urban 
settlers in Southwest Asia around 12,000 years ago were almost surely predominantly 
hunters and gatherers who settled down largely to make long-distance trade more effi- 
cient, although this interpretation remains controversial among most archeologists and 

15 Some doubt has been cast on what exactly is depicted in the mural. Even Hodder 
leaves open some small possibility that the painting may not be of the settlement itself 
(see the fascinating Catalhoyuk website and The Leopard s Tale, 2006). A recent tele- 
vision documentary on the Neolithic claimed that the volcano, thought to be Hassan 
Dagh, is too far away from C a talh6yiik to be seen, thus making it possible that the 
painting actually is of an older and much closer settlement, such as Asikli Hoyuk. If 
one climbs to the top of the mound (hoyiik) at the site, as I did in 2005, nearly all 
doubts about what is shown disappear. Looking south, one can imagine the long side 
of the oval ancient settlement in front of you, with a volcanic mountain shaped very 
much like the one in the painting floating on the horizon. Only the mountain is Kara 
Dagh not Hassan Dagh, contrary to everything that has been written about the mural. 
Otherwise, the mural is a direct representation of what would have been seen from the 
top of the settlement of Gatalhoyiik. 

16 The full quote, taken from a Los Angeles Times interview (Proffitt 1997), is "Cities are 
the mothers of economic development, not because people are smarter in cities, but 
because of the conditions of density. There is a concentration of need in cities, and a 
greater incentive to address problems in ways that haven't been addressed before. This 
is the essence of economic development. Without it we'd all be poor." 

17 Jacob's assertion that "cities came first," that cities were necessary for the production 
of an agricultural surplus rather than the other way around, remains controversial and 
is not widely accepted by even the best contemporary archeologists and prehistorians. 
It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that the first urban settlements had few if 

Taking space personally 35 

any farmers when they were initially established, that agricultural production prima- 
rily expanded to meet the needs of growing urban agglomerations, and that the eco- 
nomic development and wealth of human societies has been more shaped by the 
urbanization process from around 12,000 years ago to the present than any scholar 
other than Jacobs and her followers had ever imagined. For further elaboration of these 
arguments, see Soja (2000, 2003) and Blake (2002). 

18 The earliest identification of Jacobs's contributions to economic development theory 
was by the Nobel Prize-winning economist, John Lucas Jr. (1988). See also H. 
Harrington, "Review of The Economy of Cities," and D. Nowlan, "Jane Jacobs among 
the Economists" (Allen 1997). 

19 One even more widely popular offshoot of this new geographical economics and the 
revival of Jane Jacobs is the notion of creative cities, a target that has captured urban 
planners around the world as a means of taking advantage of the stimulus of urban 
agglomeration. The key work here has been Florida (2002). 

3 Spacing movements 

The turn to cartographies and mapping 
practices in contemporary social 

Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

Something unique is afoot in Europe, in what is still called Europe even if we no 
longer know very well what or who goes by this name. Indeed, to what concept, 
to what real individual, to what singular entity should this name be assigned 
today? Who will draw up its borders? 

(Derrida 1992: 5) 

The diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even some- 
thing real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality. 

(Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 142) 

The development of global resistance movements has been filled with an expan- 
sive spatial imaginary and vocabulary. This has been particularly true since the 
multiplication and spread of these movements after the first officially declared 
"Global Days of Action" in 1998 (see People's Global Action in n. 7 below). The 
multi-issue and transnational nature of this movement, a "movement of move- 
ments" (Bergel 2002), reflects its amorphous and flexible nature (Graeber 2004). 
Central to these movements has been an intense networking and exchange of 
ideas and practices among movement groups striving to generate an alternative 
spatial politics of public and private lives (see Ortellado 2002; Marcos 1997; 
Katsiaficas 2004). Examples of this generative spatial thinking include: issues of 
"scalar sensitive" politics and the links between the "local," the "global" and 
everything in between (Prokosch and Raymond 2002); the creation/production of 
spaces such as the World Social Forum and its unique grassroots popular global 
diplomacy (World Social Forum 2005); the occupation or reappropriation of 
spaces through squats, land takeovers, temporary autonomous zones and Reclaim 
the Streets actions (Notes From Nowhere 2003); and reinvigorated ideas of open- 
ing new commons and anti-enclosure struggles (De Angelis 2003; Midnight 
Notes Collective 2004). 

This thinking and analysis often arises not only from efforts to understand 
global processes and the constitution of corporate power and empire, but also 
from the "need" to articulate a globalizing identity of struggle among such dis- 
parate actors (Solnit 2004; Notes From Nowhere 2003), what Derrida (1994) 
referred to as the "New International." Thus, on the one hand global resistance 
movements have been attempting to re-envision the "powers that be" and "what 

Spacing m o vem ents 37 

they're up against" through different analyses and metaphors ("the fourth world 
war", "empire", networked capitalism working through key international institu- 
tions and states, etc.), productive metaphors that have generated new ways to 
understand shared struggles manifest in different ways in different places and 
through distinct spatial strategies and practices. On the other hand, they have also 
been attempting to envision new worlds and spaces - "Another World is 
Possible" or "A World Where Many Worlds Fit" - to reanimate concepts such as 
transnational/local political spheres and convergence spaces (see Routledge 
2003; Featherstone 2004) or alternative or Utopian spaces within the space-time 
of mass demonstrations (Perez de Lama 2004). 1 In these and wider social move- 
ment contexts there is emerging an acknowledgement that, in part, the battle for 
new worlds is a battle over space and the production of spatial imaginaries. 2 

Understanding how spaces and spatial imaginaries affect movements as well as 
how movements create spaces of different sorts can help us understand more com- 
plex movement dynamics and unevenness in movement development (Lefebvre 
1991). Such creative effects of movement action may involve: ephemeral moments 
of excess at a mass demonstration that can spread like a meme across locales (sim- 
ilar to the eros effect in Katsiaficas 1987); abeyance structures that help provide 
continuity in moments of demobilization (Taylor 1989); movement infrastructures 
that provide communications or survival mechanisms to participants (alternative 
media, trade networks, etc.); and/or institutions that may then articulate with the 
state and negotiate their own space in governance structures. 

Social movement studies as a subfield has recently returned to questions of 
space and spatial practice, perhaps most notably through work on geographies of 
resistance (Pile and Keith 1997), global justice movements (Routledge 2003; 
Featherstone 2003), and recent work on anti-nuclear movements (Miller 2000). 3 
In the 2000 Mobilization encounter focusing on the role of space in contentious 
politics and the practices of social movements, Tilly (1998), Martin and Miller 
(2003), Marston (2003), and Wolford (2003) each drew on aspects of these tradi- 
tions to open a conversation between the more taxonomic sociological approach 
to movements represented there by Tilly and the more dialectical and relational 
analyses of the socio-spatial representation by the geographers. Each, and in con- 
versation, has, as a result, expanded the lexicon and conceptual apparatus for 
thinking geographically about the social in social movements. Each points in 
slightly different directions and each works differently with concepts of space, 
the social relations of spatiality, socio-spatial dialectics, and spatial practices, but 
all suggest some important ways in which a post-vanguardist politics attentive to 
contingency and local specificity must reshape thinking about social movements 
around different configurations of space and place (see Escobar 2001 for a 
broader reading of the significance of contingency and local specificity). 

For our present purposes we have focused on a more limited context in which 
theories and technologies of space and spatial mapping are generating particular 
interest in and among the social movement activists themselves. We are inter- 
ested not only in what it means to think cartographically about social movements, 
but also what it means when social movements themselves think and act spatially 

38 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

and more specifically cartographically. To do this we have engaged with several 
movement collectives that have explicitly adopted the practices of cartography 
and map-making as one way to further pursue their political activities. Such crit- 
ically engaged cartographies have begun to multiply in recent years in social 
movements and art-activist groups. Some of these are cartoon-like maps, others 
are street protest maps which designate targets, safe zones, or map out areas for 
differing levels of physical militancy (Figure 3.1). But a newer wave of these 
activist maps that are more theoretically and analytically engaged has also 
emerged and seems to be spreading. 4 Here we focus on two groups (Bureau 
d'Etudes/Universite Tangente and Hackitectura), but the number of such groups 
is growing rapidly, including parallel groups in Barcelona (De Que va Realment 
el Forum) and Rome (Transform!) which map the multiple types and sites of con- 
flict in the city; projects such as "They Rule" (, which uses the 
internet to create network maps of corporations, their executive boards and polit- 
ical administrations in the USA; and Migmap, which maps the complex networks 
and interrelations among actors, discourses, institutions, and places and practices 
governing migration and Europeanization ( 

Cartography may seem an unusual beginning for thinking about the reconfig- 
uration of social, economic, and geopolitical identities. Historically, cartography 
has been associated with the imperial projects of the last several centuries by 
mapping terrae incognitae in order to facilitate material and cognitive conquest. 
Cartography may even seem an irrelevant subject. While it is argued that more 
maps are being produced now than at any time in the known past, it seems that 
the majority of these are classically Cartesian and dedicated towards mapping 
"objects" such as glaciers, streets, military targets, and potential markets. 

The relevance of cartography to projects of emancipatory politics, social 
theory or critical political economy can seem to be limited at best. After all, so 
much of the new mapping practices and technologies actually seem to only 
deepen the power of existing institutions, or at least depend on the kinds of 
investments these institutions (especially the military) make in new visualization 
capacities and approaches (Virtual Reality, 3-D, high-resolution space mapping, 
etc). 5 Even in participatory mapping and GIS practice, one may rightfully be 
skeptical of the emancipatory potential of participatory mapping in which, as 
Denis Wood (2005) argued, the deployment of terms like "public" "participation" 
"geographic" "information" "systems" is not about public practices but about the 
construction of new technical intermediaries and consultational instruments, not 
about the participation of citizens in the governance of their lives but about a rep- 
resentational politics that domesticates any threat of participation, not about the 
"geographic" as a complex nexus of meanings and practices but about the ren- 
dering of a landscape of instrumental rationalities, and not about information but 
about the production and regulation of data. 

In such a world, the only apparent relevance for a critical project of cartogra- 
phy might appear to be the discursive "deconstruction" of these maps and the 
worlds they produce. But, as Fredric Jameson (1991) pointed out in his efforts to 

Spacing m o vem ents 39 

Entering Official Liberation Zone 

©r^-i root cause ran ■ : , 

Figure 3. 1 Entering the official liberation zone (root cause). 

come to grips with an appropriate politics that responds to the dislocationary 
effects of what he referred to as the "postmodern condition", the unity of a mid- 
twentieth-century Eurocentric order is broken up into a radical diversity that at 
the same time masks power and oppression through complexity and disjuncture. 
Individuals are increasingly unable to perceive the criss-crossing of (now global) 

40 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

power relations that intersect with their daily life. The globalization of capital, 
trade, and the culture industries project a plethora of "identities" of a society fully 
imbued with participatory possibilities and choice, but lacking the kinds of "cog- 
nitive maps" so necessary for effective political action and the reflective life. This 
carto-politics seeks to contribute to a political project of global cognitive map- 
ping in order to understand the current spatial logics of capitalism and provide 
individual subjects with the tools necessary to create alternative trajectories to 
navigate this system (Jameson 1991: 54). 

Such cognitive maps are, of course, always being produced either by design or by 
default, with some social actors staking out particularly clear positions on their value. 
The new mappings that most interest us in this work are those Gilles Deleuze - in 
referring to Michel Foucault - called the "new cartography". The new cartography 
was to be a mode of spatial thinking that sought not to trace out representations of the 
real, but to construct mappings that refigure relations in ways that render alternative 
epistemologies and very different ways of world-making. From this perspective, 

A distinction must be made between two types of science [royal and 
nomadic], or scientific procedures: one consists in "reproducing," the other 
in "following." The first involves reproduction, iteration and reiteration; the 
other, involving itineration, is the sum of the itinerant, ambulant sciences . . . 
Reproduction implies the permanence of a fixed point of view that is exter- 
nal to what is reproduced: watching the flow from the bank. But following is 
something different form the ideal of reproduction. Not better, just different. 
One is obliged to follow when one is in search of the "singularities" of a 
matter, or rather of a material, and not out to discover a form . . . when one 
engages in a continuous variation of variables, instead of extracting constants 
from them . . . And the meaning of the Earth completely changes: with the 
legal [royal-reproducing] model, one is constantly reterritorializing around a 
point of view, on a domain, according too a set of constant relations; but with 
the ambulant [nomadic-following] model, the process of deterritorialization 
constitutes and extends the territory itself. 

(Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 372) 

This type of epistemological shift has become the basis for intense analytical 
and political experimentation and mobilization among these social movements, 
especially those connected with the global justice movement. The new cartogra- 
phers are the social movements who - across a very wide spectrum of groups and 
locations - are rapidly expanding the scope of their spatial practices and their pro- 
duction of new mappings to render new images (and practices) and to render vis- 
ible their geographies in new ways. But this is not only a representational politics 
of making the invisible visible (Kanarinka 2005). If traditional cartographies 
sought to represent the real, new mapping practices seek instead to unmask a new 
type of real. They produce it, either by rendering it visible as a form of socio- 
spatial practice and collective action, or by producing alternative imagined (even 
Utopian) spaces to those being built by the state and other transnational actors. 

Spacing m o vem ents 41 

Here the traditional logics of cartography (the logics of tracing and reproduction) 
are to be transformed by mappings that produce new conceptions of place and 
region, proliferate the kinds of relations among them, open up spaces for action, 
and constitute new subjects: 

What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented 
toward and experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not repro- 
duce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It 
fosters connection between fields. . . . The map is open and connectable in 
all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant mod- 
ification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked 
by an individual, group, or social formation. 

(Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 12) 

The participants in these movement mapping projects are diverse in their back- 
grounds and career positions, comprising the unemployed, academics, flexible 
production producers, artists, designers, community and housing specialists, chain 
store (retail) workers, intellectual labor, among others. In some sense, these groups 
constitute new research centers of artists, activists, and self-styled hackers work- 
ing on more productive cartographies directed to a new type of bio-geo-politics. 
What characterizes these groups, as well as the wider movement networks of 
autonomous activists of which they form a part, is their focus on the intensifica- 
tion of processes of de-territorialization and reterritorialization occurring in and 
across Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere. In each of these settings, the role of 
a spatial politics of enclosure, whether by privatization, dispossession, or financial 
power, seems to be leading to an increase in the scale and effectiveness of spaces 
of exclusion and the hardening of territorial-politico boundaries at all scales. 
Among increasingly dislocated and flexibilized populations, there has emerged a 
desire to produce new cognitive maps that are crucial instruments of reterritorial- 
ization; new machinic forms produced in the act of contesting public spaces and 
new assemblages aimed at opening alternative possibilities for citizenship. 

Mapping is, of course, only one practice among many currently circulating 
within the intensive networks of European social movements. Many social move- 
ments do not engage in mapping or purposely eschew its use. For these groups, if 
they think of mapping practices at all, it is likely to be in terms of cartography and 
geographical information systems - the technics of spatial politics - as instruments 
of surveillance and control. Not surprisingly, some groups worry about the conse- 
quences of adopting techniques that historically have been so closely aligned with 
institutions of power. However, in turning to cartography and mapping, these 
groups are claiming neither a privileged role for mapping and cartography as tech- 
nical practices of social action nor are they suggesting that these mapping practices 
constitute the possibility for any new kind of universal god's-eye logic or episte- 
mology for collective action (Pickles 2004). Indeed, the groups we deal with here 
explicitly articulate their understanding of mapping against the cartographies, 
geopolitics, and geo-economies of state territoriality and extra-territoriality. 

42 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

In referring to the work of Foucault as the "new cartographer," Deleuze (1988: 
23^4) pointed to a mode of investigation and writing that sought not to trace out 
representations of the real, but to construct mappings that refigure relations in 
ways that render alternative worlds. This new cartography is used by the social 
movements we discuss to refigure the relations of power that structure socio- 
spatial life and to remap the social spaces of everyday life in ways that produce 
new political subjects. The tension between existing and possible spatial imagi- 
naries is thus articulated by Euromovements (a European action research net- 
work) as a complex double movement of "mapping the social movements vs. 
mapping the biopower," and it is this double movement we wish to explore in the 
sections that follow. In particular, we seek to illustrate some of the ways that 
these social movements, anarchist collectives, and/or art groups are attempting to 
think and act spatially in ways that aim at different kinds of mobilization and 
transformative politics. In their own words: 

Techno-political tools and social transformation constitute an interesting 
interaction domain. Some of us are calling for the production of "anti-tech- 
nologies of resistance", arguing for methods that can't be replicated else- 
where, so evanescent that they can't be produced with a guideline to 
understand it. The exercise of mapping is always under the danger of cap- 
turing something [that] wants to be free. How [do] groups producing maps, 
analyzing and/or producing techno-political tools to systematize large 
amounts of data deal with those questions? Which are the ethical and philo- 
sophical challenges and limits about mapping social transformation, social 
movements and networks activities? How to reverse control surveillance 
engineering, how to challenge the pan-capitalism, through mechanisms, as 
Brian Holmes call them, "grass roots top down surveillance systems"? What 
is the role of technology and software programation inside the development 
of this activist research field? We do also get the sensation that [the] 
maps/visualization field of action is highly competitive, and is fulfilled with 
private actors and enterprises, how do actors and groups from social move- 
ments and hacklabs challenge this? 


Mapping has taken on an increasingly important role in this kind of global 
resistance politics. The number of groups, efforts, and projects that use maps as a 
technique to engage questions of the global economy, new transnational identities, 
and changing urbanisms has become dizzying. The styles of maps, the particular 
goals and the types of cartography on which they draw are as diverse as the groups 
themselves. As mentioned earlier, some of these maps take the form of commu- 
nity asset mapping, where different participants in a mapping session focus on 
resources, sites of memory, sites of access, and other capacities on a basic frame 
of a map with often little more than an outline of a city or region. The maps are 
usually oriented toward the goals of a particular group or campaign, allowing par- 
ticipants to literally draw links and clarify the connections between disparate 

Spacing m o vem ents 43 

resources. Others take the form of the basic tourist or street map, often prepared 
for a large mobilization, such as the World Social Forums or the Republican 
National Convention protest of 2004 in New York City. In these cases, the map 
provides information to participants about targets to be protested, areas that are 
likely to be sealed by police, the location of safe areas, as well as resources such 
as information centers, independent bookstores, free wireless access spots, and 
available medical services. While such maps are designed and distributed for a 
specific event over a short period of time, they also become something that can be 
used long after the mobilization. Yet other maps juxtapose seemingly disparate 
and discrete entities and issues in order to create or make visible relationships and 
new conceptions of space, the maps themselves becoming a form of community- 
making through a collective process of production imbued with activist politics. 
We focus on two art-activist groups that have been actively engaged in these two 
forms of carto-politics: Bureau d'Etudes and Hackitectura, respectively based in 
Paris and Seville. Each is a key referent and inspiration for this growing trend of 
activist mapping and a resurgence of spatial practice in Europe. 

Their "new cartography" is productive, aimed at mobilizing alternative geo- 
graphical imaginations, expanded spatial practices, and new worlds. Not all move- 
ments that use mapping are "new cartographers" in this vein and some may not be 
explicitly aware or critical of the ways in which cartography and mapping have 
functioned as forms of state or "royal" science in the past. However, the number 
and scope of these varieties of cartography and hacking groups is growing and 
their work is beginning to circulate to great effect. These are groups with 
antecedents in situationist, schizo-analytic, and a variety of other avant-garde 
activist and revolutionary practices. They are not social movements based on mod- 
ernist logics of representation and equivalence, but instead are part of a broader 
movement of autonomous politics and a kind of nomad thought that "replaces the 
closed equation of representation, x = x = not y (I = I = not you) with an open equa- 
tion: ... + y + z + a+ . ..(... + arm + brick + window =...)... Nomad space 
is 'smooth,' or open-ended. One can rise up at any point and move to any other" 
(Massumi 2002: p. xiii). 

This perspective has consequences for the logics of collective action and polit- 
ical mobilization. The groups attempt to create distinct political infrastructures 
that can exist parallel to, and in antagonism with, those of the state and political 
party; by subtracting from the "state", the space of the EU, or of capital, they pro- 
liferate spaces in complex and dynamic interaction with each other and in ways 
that highlight their contingency. Theirs is a struggle for a politics of what Deleuze 
and Guattari called the rhizome that "unlike trees or their roots . . . connects any 
point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the 
same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even non-sign 
states" (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 21). 

Bureau d'Etudes and the mapping of neoliberal Europe 

In 1998, with the exhibition Archives du Capitalisme, Bureau d'Etudes 
started producing organizational charts showing the proprietary relations 

44 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

between financial funds, government agencies, banks and industrial firms. A 
number of these graphic charts, or "organigrams," were deployed as part of an 
installation including black-and-white photographs of heads propped up on 
wooden pickets (presumably CEOs), as well as a scale model of a proposed 
new parliament building, to articulate the voting rights of those with real 
power in today's society. The exhibition was an autonomous project in an 
artist-run space, at the time called the "Faubourg," in the city of Strasbourg. 
For a subsequent show entitled Le Capital, mounted by Nicolas Bourriaud in 
the city of Sete, an organigram detailing the relations between the French state 
and a panoply of major transnational corporations was blown up to wall size. 
Squares and rectangles of varying proportions, each identified with a name 
(Societe Generale, Dresdner Bank, Mitsubishi, Pirelli, etc.) were connected 
with a labyrinth of elaborately traced channels, printed in black against a 
white ground. The result was something like an all-over painting for the com- 
puter and finance-obsessed 1990s: an aesthetics of information. 

(Holmes 2003) 

Bureau d'Etudes mapping projects began around 1998 with a collection of polit- 
ical art called the "archives of capitalism". The archives emerged out of their 
engagement with unemployed and squatters movements and included maps and 
flowcharts of economic networks and powerful individuals in the Strasbourg 
region produced as a form of public/political art. After several other collective 
projects in France, the group began to question how to break out of the typical 
gallery-museum art circuit. In coordination with other artists, they founded the 
"Syndicat Potentiel" (the "Potential Union") to engage with issues of unemploy- 
ment, casualized labor, and culture workers. Both groups (Bureau d'Etudes and 
Syndicat Potentiel) are tightly networked with other activist groups and have 
strong connections with squatter movements throughout Western Europe 
(Holmes 2003: 1-2). One of the central goals of these groups is the production of 
"autonomous counter knowledges" and - drawing on the work of Marcel Mauss 
on the gift economy and the rediscovery of Mauss in France after the general 
strikes of 1995 - they have been particularly active in trying to frame discourses 
and practices of an economy of the "free" (free goods, services, etc. see 
Manifesto of the Universite Tangente, as well as Holmes 2003; Graeber 2002a; 6 

Reflections on the changing nature of the economy and the need to better 
understand the new forms of international corporatist and state solidarity led to a 
long-term engagement with cartographic representation. Particularly after the 
first "global days of action" in 1998 7 and the widespread emergence and 
acknowledgement of global resistance movements, these cartographic experi- 
ments expanded and resulted in an expansion of the Bureau d'Etudes out of the 
gallery-museum dynamic and into more open circulation (Holmes 2003: 3). The 
maps show dense networks of institutional actors in regional and global 
economies, and they are intended to function as shock tools to incite conversation 
and analysis. 8 They have been distributed at events such as the European Social 

Spacing m o vem ents 45 

Forum, counter summits against important international institutions, No Border 
camps against migration policing, and other movement spaces (see http:// The group has produced over a dozen major maps, as well as 
accompanying texts, and these have now been used in a wide variety of settings 
and by different groups in global resistance and anti-capitalist movements. 9 The 
mapping work of the Bureau d'Etudes has inspired individuals and collectives in 
different countries (especially in Spain, France, Germany, Serbia, the UK, the 
USA, and Canada) to experiment with similar forms of map-making as interven- 
tion (see Universite Tangnete 2003; Kuda 2004). 

[Tjhese maps present an excess of information, shattering subjective certainties 
and demanding reflection, demanding a new gaze on the world that we really live 
in. These are synoptic visions of the contemporary, transnational version of state 
capitalism, as constructed "by collusion between specific individuals, transna- 
tional corporations, governments, interstate agencies and 'civil society' groups." 

(Holmes 2003) 

They make visible the institutional patterns that have structured themselves in 
an overarching, terrifyingly abstract space, almost totally beyond the grasp of the 
democratic counter-powers formerly exercised within the purview of the national 
states, and indeed, almost totally invisible - at least until recently, when the com- 
municative possibilities have allowed a certain measure of "cognitive mapping" 
to be performed by inhabitants (Holmes 2003). 

Bureau d'Etudes maps in the "European Norms of World Production" series 
are particularly instructive in showing how it is trying to use a form of mapping 
to challenge accepted categories of Europe. 

Absent from the local landscape, invisible to the naked eye, a labyrinth of 
laws and standards lends tangible form to our existence. The European 
Union ... is an attempt to produce the world we live in. The instruments it 
uses are norms: industrial standards, territorial models, ideological guide- 
lines, truth criteria. These become the second nature of an expanding, accel- 
erating drive to make this vast, unpredictable human region into a 
playground for capitalism. Sophisticated services have now arisen to lead 
corporations through the tangle of agencies that their own lobbies helped to 
create, as a smokescreen to hide and further their own interests. 

("European Norms of World Production") 

The map is polemical, representing a dizzying array of institutions, actors, 
personalities, organizations, and movements. It comprises three parts. On one 
side of the map is the "Normopathic Complex (Europe)" with a series of EU 
institutions, nation-state institutions, corporations, lobbies, think-tanks, per- 
sonalities, policy initiatives, regulatory agencies, court systems, police forces, 
and a wide array of norms and laws that facilitate its expansion (Figure 3.2). 
Links are drawn between the different elements to create a sort of network map 

46 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

Figure 3.2 Normopathic complex, 

of corporate, state, and regulatory power. Part of the second side/layer of the 
map focuses on "organized civil society" and includes NGOs, EU committees 
on civil society, and non-industry policy platforms that are linked in multiple 
and complex ways with the nation-state, the EU, and industry (particularly 
indirectly through secondary groups, such as task forces, think-tanks, etc.) 
(Figure 3.3). The final layer of the map is "Inklings of Autonomy" and 
includes a wide array of social movement activity. The movements are pur- 
posefully represented with porous boundaries so that their concerns and com- 
mitments bleed from one into another: "anti-prison", "abolition of the state", 
"re-appropriation of public goods and services", "heterodox research centers," 
etc. (Figure 3.4). 

For the Bureau d'Etudes, the new Europe is being produced precisely through 
the interplay of these three layered and complex assemblages of institutions and 

Spacing m o vem ents 47 

Figure 3.3 World monitoring. 

actors. Bureau d'Etudes thus deploys a cartography of assemblage, beginning 
from one location (law, institution, or corporation) and piecing together connec- 
tions and networks in ways that relocate those same laws, institutions, and cor- 
porations in a larger framework. In this way, the map locates and materializes the 
abstractions "EU" and "Europe" by embodying them in specific and networked 
institutions and laws. Bureau d'Etudes refers to these as "poles in the reorgani- 
zation of the terrestrial production line" (Table 3.1). 

The resulting maps are both concrete tools for developing specific tactics and 
a form of ideology critique that destabilizes the seemingly solid and autonomous 
institutions. The institutions that depend so fully for their "solidity" on their exis- 
tence in the web of relations that produces a particular "Europe" are denatural- 
ized. Instead of being seen as a hierarchically organized set of power/knowledge 
dispositifs, this new Europe is now rendered as a complex articulation and mesh 

48 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

Figure 3.4 Inklings of autonomy. 

of contingent actors and institutions. Indeed, in "Flowmaps, the Imaginaries of 
Global Integration," Holmes (2004b: 5) suggests that Bureau d'Etudes maps 
should be seen as attempts to visualize spaces of flows where specific actors such 
as states, corporations, investment funds, armies, think-tanks, lobbies, powerful 
family lineages, media groups, transnational religious organizations, and social 
movements are mapped as nodes through which elements such as knowledge, 
money, and media flow, not in a unidirectional nor stable manner but with 
stronger or weaker connections. 10 

European Norms of World Production has primarily been used as a workshop 
tool for teach-ins. Typically it has the immediate effect of impressing people with 
its dizzying complexity and generating in its users a sense of awe for its visual 
complexity and institutional reach. But it is then used to stimulate discussion 
about how to use the map and what can be done with it; to understand how con- 
crete and contingent are the institutions of the new Europe, to identify the many 
points at which this new "Europe" is vulnerable and at how many levels it is lit- 
erally pieced together. It has certainly produced a more directed dialogue about 

Spacing movements 49 

Table 3.1 Bureau d'Etudes war times chronicles: poles in the reorganization of the 
terrestrial production line 

Pole 1 - technological and military pole: telecommunications and armaments firms, secret 
services, states, think tanks, networked police forces, sects, cable networks, satellites, 

Pole 2 - pole of control over world financial flows: banks, private and public pension 
funds, transnational firms, elite leadership bodies, investment companies, lobbies, states, 
mafia networks, off-shore financial zones, international public organizations. 

Pole 3 - pole of control over communication and information, or more generally, over the 
industrial production of decoys: transnational media firms, ministries of culture and 
communication, newspaper and magazine, television, radio, publishing and consumer-goods 
companies, advertising firms, fashion and clothing firms, supermarkets, stores, malls, cinema 
conglomerates, sects, secret societies, author's groups, counseling and expertise services. 

Pole 4 - pole of control over the production and productive optimization of life: 
transnational firms, universities, start-ups and biotech companies, copyright and patent 

Pole 5 - pole of control over access to the planet's natural resources, in particular water 
and oil: states, major oil companies, transnational firms, lobbies, international 
organizations, mafia networks, Francafrique network, cartels, pipelines. 


what the EU is and how to challenge it, and it has also helped spread the idea of 
mapping as a tool to map out power and collective struggles. Bureau d'Etudes is 
now working with other collectives to develop online map generators that can 
enable more participatory mapping practices and which will allow input from dif- 
ferent groups and campaigns. 11 

Hackitectura and deleting the borders of fortress Europe 

The activist mapping efforts on which we are focusing are, at one and the same 
time, attempting to navigate the changing contours of something called "Europe" 
within the context of global resistance movements and also attempting to create 
new geographies and spatialities that prefigure the sorts of social relations these 
movements would like to enact, often taking advantage of the very same recon- 
figurations of European "space" that are afoot (such as the reworking of borders) 
as a way to inject and pursue their own projects. Hackitectura has been particu- 
larly important in this respect. 

Hackitectura is based principally in Seville, Spain, though it works closely 
with a network established throughout the region of Andalusia and parts of north- 
ern Morocco. It emerged formally in 2004 at the intersection of several pre- 
existing projects (mobilizations, maps, texts, websites) and has been extremely 
active since then. As the name implies, it is a network of hackers, artists, and 
architects and others involved in activism in the area (see 
Hackitectura is situated in some very interesting and complex nodes of social 

50 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

Figure 3.5 Mapa de la Sevilla Global / wewearbuildings et al. 2002; http://www.hackitectura. 

movement activity in the area, including independent media and technology 
initiatives, migrant rights organizations, and emerging efforts at organizing 
around flexible labor markets. 12 Their early mapping projects resembled street 
maps, although their goal was to chart the diversity of protest actions and events 
at one of the large anti-globalization protests. Individual groups could plot their 
different actions on a larger master copy and it could be used as an infopoint at a 
protest convergence center or reprinted for handheld use. From these efforts at 
showing where protests were happening, later efforts focused on how to translate 
discussions of the effects of "globalization" on a city-wide scale. In Seville, on 
the eve of a large EU summit and concomitant protests in 2002, a collaborative 
mapping project was carried out with different community organizations to try to 
represent different effects of globalization on the city (Figure 3. 5). 13 The project 
drew on Zapatista frameworks of understanding, particularly those from the com- 
muniques on "Seven Loose Pieces of the Global Jigsaw Puzzle" (Marcos 1997) 
and the "Fourth World War" (Marcos 2001). In this case, the map is part of a 
broader collective project of revisioning the city, a project that lasted much longer 
than the action itself. 

The success of these efforts led to projects that attempted to challenge histori- 
cal and official spatial conceptions of the EU-Africa or North-South border 
between Spain and Morocco. As struggles for immigrant rights and against 

Spacing m o vem ents 51 

Figure 3.6 Cartographies of the Straits of Gibraltar, 

precarious/casualized work grew across the country, one flashpoint for their 
articulation was this border and this, in turn, made it more urgent that alternative 
spatial logics and imaginations be mobilized. The creation and use of alternative 
cartographies of the border became one strategy for beginning to reconceptualize 
the terrain of the "border regime." In order to carry out these remappings 
Hackitectura participated in a network between social activists in southern Spain 
and northern Morocco and together they attempted to reconceptualize the spaces 
of the border and imagine new ways in which a relational cartography of flows 
and networks might rework the geographies of alterity and difference, focusing 
instead on the rich and diverse ways in which the border region constituted a 
dense regional meshwork. Instead of focusing on maps that delimit Europe, 
Hackitectura began to refigure the border as a spatially interwoven set of prac- 
tices, institutions, and technics; the exchange of bodies and goods, transnational 
and transborder telecommunication and broadcasting spaces, integrated surveil- 
lance structures, shipping lanes, and atmospheric and oceanic exchanges of 
energy and material. These networks mapped out new conceptions of economic 
change and global flows, as well as innovative ways of thinking about commu- 
nity action at the border (Figure 3.6). 

Instead of accepting the border as a fixed entity that separated an "us" from a 
"them," constraining bodies and movement, the groups involved are mapping the 

52 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

complex networks of flows that make up this "border" region: including flows of 
capital, police, and detention centers ("geographies of empire") as well as net- 
working between movements, migrants, and new technologies ("geographies of 
the multitude"). To these they have added new interaction spaces, such as those 
created by communication technologies that span and connect the region of the 
straits and facilitate ever tighter networks of contact and coordination on both 
sides. The result is a map that does not reproduce the border as a space of sepa- 
ration but follows the flows across the Mediterranean in order to articulate the 
border as a space that is created, inhabited and traversed. In this rendering, the 
"solid Mediterranean" is no longer understood as a natural boundary, but a lived 
space of historical continuities and connections (Perez de Lama 2004). 

Spacing social movements and the new cartographers 

Alan Watson, European chair of the world's largest public relations firm, Burson- 
Marsteller has little doubt about the importance to his corporate clients of pro- 
ducing such cognitive "way-finding" maps: 

First of all they've got to start by knowing how the system works. . . . We 
can advise them on how they should put their argument on paper. We can 
advise them on which people in the committee would be interested. ... So 
that way you build a map for them, a sort of road map of where they need to 
go, who they need to talk to and what they need to know. . . . We don't do 
the lobbying . . . What we do is to give the company the information so that 
they can go and make the case for themselves. 

Groups like Bureau d'Etudes and Hackitectura have long recognized that the 
need for and interest in such road maps is not confined to corporations. Social 
movements, art activists, and autonomous groups can all deploy cartography and 
experimental forms of spatial practice as tools for new forms of geo-bio-politics 
(see Pickles 2004, 2006). 

One influential figure involved in the new radical networks of mapping and 
mappers is Brian Holmes, who in a wide range of published papers, projects, and 
actions has mobilized much interest around the possibilities cartography provides 
for analyses of and responses to the global economy and emancipatory politics. 
Holmes (2004a, 2004b) seeks to deepen Jameson's global cognitive mapping 
project through the poststructuralism of Tally (1996) and Bartolovich (1996) and 
the new materialism of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Michel Foucault 
(Holmes 2004b). 

For Holmes (2004a: 4) the new cartographies work in the spaces between dom- 
inant and dissenting maps: "every successful cartography ultimately helps create 
the world it purports to represent," and it does so in part through the organization 
of information and the rendering visible of the global economy in new ways 
(Holmes 2004b: 2). Holmes stresses the "need [for] radically inventive maps 
exactly like we need radical political movements: to go beyond received ideas 

Spacing m o vem ents 53 

and orders, in fact, to go beyond representation, to rediscover and share the 
space-creating potentials of a revolutionary imagination" (Holmes 2004a: 1). 

Holmes compares two styles of maps. The first style is that of a "geographical 
representation of networked power - a determinate network map which attempts to 
identify and measure the forces in play" (Holmes 2004b: 7). This map has fixed 
borders and actors with fairly clear dynamics underlying their relationships. 14 The 
second form of map is that of "an undetermined network diagram, which opens up 
a field of possibility or of potential strategy" (Holmes 2004b: 7). Holmes invokes 
the notion of "diagrams of power" from Deleuze's work on Foucault: "a cartogra- 
phy coextensive with the whole social field." The map does not designate a "static 
grid" fixed in spaces but rather a productive matrix that interacts across a myriad of 
"points-human beings" and spaces. This productive matrix coexists alongside and 
in tension with others operating throughout the realm of the "social". "Deleuze 
describes the diagram of power as "highly unstable or fluid . . . constituting hun- 
dreds of points of emergence or creativity." The aim [of mapping] is to indicate the 
openness, the possibility for intervention that inheres to every power relation" 
(Holmes 2004b: 8). Mapping can become a way of visualizing this "meshwork" 
(see De Landa 2005 and Escobar 2004 on meshwork and social movements). It is 
in this second form of cartography where Holmes sees incredible potential for new 
radical mapping efforts such as Bureau d'Etudes and Hackitectura. 

Saul Albert (2003) similarly attempts to push past some of the underlying 
assumption of traditional "systematic cartography" in his turn to poststructural- 
ism and Deleuzian-like "diagrams of power." In this context, Albert is more inter- 
ested in linking these possibilities to the actor-network theory of Bruno Latour 
and John Serres. For Albert, there is in Latour' s thinking a similarity between 
these new cartographies and actor-network theory at the level of their practices 
and their critique of "representational norms" (Albert and Latour in Albert 2003: 
4-6). Albert goes so far as to claim that Latour's example unintentionally chalks 
an outline around the missing half of Harley's critique: that cartography is poten- 
tially an ontological investigation. If it removes its a priori assumptions, it 
becomes a kind of spatial ontology, one that is well equipped with both the tools 
and methods of constructivist research, and the deontological moral standard of 
"irreducibility" (Albert 2004: 6). 

This deontologized cartography can now function much like John Serres 's 
"quasi-objects" - nodal points of articulation of particular interconnected, but 
contingent roles, subject positions, and sets of social relations. This is how Serres 
would view the map, as a formalization of human relations, a representation with 
which each actant becomes a subject. This is the use of the map as a commu- 
nicative tool; as successive actants engage with the map, each locates their sub- 
jectivity in its representational schema, the "I" is shifted from person to person, 
between person and multitude, or from multitude to multitude. "Analytical car- 
tography", and the power relations Harley identifies in it, is an example of the 
"deterministic practices" this use of the map may give rise to (Albert 2003: 9). 

"[W]e can approach [these] map[s] of global flows as diagramfs] of power 
in the Deleuzian sense . . . not simply as 'static grids' but rather 'productive 

54 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

matrices' criss-crossed with tensions. The networks visualized are indeterminate, 
open to 'a field of possibility or of potential strategy'" (Holmes 2004b: 7). In this 
sense, Bureau d'Etudes maps can be seen as "cognitive tools" (Holmes 2003) 
"responding" to Jameson's call for a global cognitive mapping of the scales and 
structures of a global system ungraspable to any (according to Jameson) individ- 
ual subject wandering through it. At the same time, these mappings not only 
allow for navigation but for Bureau d'Etudes and Hackitectura, they allow for 

Autonomous knowledge can be constituted through the analysis of the way 
that complex machines function. . . . The deconstruction of complex 
machines and their "decolonized" reconstruction can be carried out on all 
kinds of objects, ... In the same way as you deconstruct a program, you can 
also deconstruct the internal functioning of a government or an administra- 
tion, a firm or an industrial or financial group. On the basis of such a decon- 
struction, involving a precise identification of the operating principles of a 
given administration, or the links or networks between administrations, 
lobbies, businesses, etc., you can define modes of action or intervention. 

(Bureau d'Etudes/Universite Tangente 2002: 3) 


Through mapping, Bureau d'Etudes, Hackitectura, and Brian Holmes attempt to 
show some of the ways in which grids of power and determination are under- 
mined by their own overdetermined structures and complexities. Each has tried 
to see in complex grids of power self-organizing lines of flight and real possibil- 
ities for alternative social and economic organizations. In so doing, each has also 
elaborated the implications of Deleuzian materialism for the practices of social 
movements. Together, they see in traditional fields like cartography new episte- 
mological and political possibilities for producing new subjects and relationships, 
thus destabilizing hegemony by the material practices of new cultural production. 
They are not myopic about the power of maps. In fact, Holmes (2002) ends a 
recent essay with a note of caution, and perhaps pessimism: 

"To resist is not to be against, anymore, but to singularize," writes Suely 
Rolnik, reflecting on the changing meanings of artistic practice since the 
Great Refusal of the 1960s. "All and any acts of resistance are acts of cre- 
ation and not acts of negation." [10] . . . The great theoretical swing of the 
past three decades, from critical negation to use value and subversive affir- 
mation, has left "progressive" practices wide open to every form of coopta- 
tion and complicity. Despite the autopoetic processes that an installation 
like USE so brilliantly lets us see, the entire planet - Spaceship Earth - is 
prey to a resurgence of repressive authority, within the perfectly legible 
game of the capitalist world-economy. Berlusconi's Italy, where the project 

Spacing m o vem ents 55 

Figure 3. 7 "Que se vayan todos". 

has been shown, is hardly an exception: and yet it is also one of the labora- 
tories for new forms of political mobilization. Can we imagine artistic rep- 
resentations of self-organizing processes, in open confrontation with the 
economic game? 

Deleuze himself not only coined the term "new cartography" to describe 
Foucault, but he similarly pushed Foucault's genealogy of power into a more con- 
temporary frame in which he too described a kind of dystopic "society of con- 
trol." This was a society in which: 

We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure - 
prison, hospital, factory, school, family. The family is an "interior," in crisis 
like all other interiors - scholarly, professional, etc. The administrations in 
charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform 
schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But every- 
one knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their 
expiration periods. It's only a matter of administering their last rites and of 
keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at 
the door. These are the societies of control, which are in the process of replac- 
ing disciplinary societies. "Control" is the name Burroughs proposes as a term 
for the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future. 

(Deleuze http : //w w w.nadir. org/nadir/archi v/ 

56 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

Deleuze was, however, very clear about the politics that flows from this 

There is no need to invoke the extraordinary pharmaceutical productions, the 
molecular engineering, the genetic manipulations, although these are slated 
to enter the new process. There is no need to ask which is the toughest 
regime, for it's within each of them that liberating and enslaving forces con- 
front one another. For example, in the crisis of the hospital as environment 
of enclosure, neighborhood clinics, hospices, and day care could at first 
express new freedom, but they could participate as well in mechanisms of 
control that are equal to the harshest of confinements. There is no need to 
fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons. 

( archiv/netzkritik/societyofcontrol.html) 

The new cartography points precisely towards this search for new weapons within 
contemporary European social movements. Here a new generation of technically 
trained, computer-sawy activists is hooking up with what Graeber (2002b) has 
called the "new anarchists" to produce what we have called the new cartographers. 
To what extent this "cartographic turn" can be seen as a general trend or a minority 
stream within the movement of movements is not, at this point, the interesting ques- 
tion for us. What is fascinating in these cases is how a more rhizomatic politics is 
enacted, aimed at the analysis of the bio-political structures and networks emerging 
to shape, map, and bound European lives, and the possibilities they portend for other 
productions of subjectivity and modes of managing the care of the self. 

In this alternative political logic, performance and chance have become impor- 
tant tactics and indeterminacy is emerging as a governing epistemology. The 
point is not only to understand effects and thereby to be able to monitor and adjust 
practices to create more effective and broadly based mobilizations. Equally 
important is the ability to create new imaginaries, tools and spaces here and now, 
that may be able to spread like memes through channels of formal and informal 
movement communication but whose longer term effects may be difficult to 
ascertain beyond the subjective effects they have had on their participants. It isn't 
that longer term effects are not important. They are. But these autonomous polit- 
ical practices and the social movements that deploy them do not want to have to 
depend only on logics of collective action that mobilizes force strategically and 
rationally in such a fashion. 

Above all the new cartographers are experimentalists, willing to produce 
installations and events and allow them to be carried away, drift away, or be 
destroyed without obvious trace. Theirs is above all a politics of hope, not only 
that other worlds are possible but that they can be built in the process of living, 
rather than as a deferred moment of conjuncture when the forces align that may 
allow for broader mobilization. And it is a questioning ontology: 

We wonder about the several methodologies to develop those maps, as indi- 
viduals or as group creations. As pieces of activist social communication, what 

Spacing m o vem ents 57 

are their repercussions? Are they creating new forms of mediatical interfer- 
ences inside the mass mediascape? Are they able to help in the appropriation 
of information to be turned in collective action? Are maps/visuals a subject for 
specialists and experts? Even if it is obvious that there are real difficulties to 
develop, program, read and analyze maps, in which ways do people and groups 
involved in making maps do try to avoid those problematics? Those last ques- 
tions raise also the cartographic methodologies to work with diverse variety of 
publics on social and political thematics. Developing maps and cartographies 
can also mean to develop collective methodologies of empowerment. Maps 
can mean insertion, immersion, exchange, conversations, several levels of 
sociabilities, the rise of geo-poetic tools, intimate maps, to be produced by 
kids, young ones, immigrants, women, communities of neighbours etc. How to 
develop in group collective tactical maps? where is the border between indi- 
vidual and activism work? where are the technical possibilities to develop 
decentralized maps from several groups perspectives etc? 


Perhaps this is precisely the impulse behind the articulation of social movements, 
art, and new cartographies, in which representations are not to be defined "as the 
refusal of the commodified object and the specialized art system, but as an active 
signage pointing to the outside world, conceived as an expanded field for exper- 
imental practices of intimacy, expression and collaboration - indeed, for the 
transformation of social reality" (Holmes 2003). 


1 This is evocative of what Lefebvre (1962) seems to admire of the Paris Commune and 
what he later called for as a focus on spatial conflict as a primary site for class conflict 
and revolutionary transformation. Precisely the creation of mass Utopian spaces and 
fissures with dominated abstract spaces is what he saw as "correct" in the Commune 
and what he saw as completely absent from the mainstream communism of his time. 

2 See Lefebvre's (1991) call to create "maximally" different spaces in order to replace 
capitalism's "abstract space" and its colonization of everyday life with his own Utopia, 
"differential space," or spaces where substantive differences in ways of being could 
emerge and flourish. 

4 A comprehensive list of these and like projects would be impossible, but to get sense of this 
diffusion and different sorts of activist cartography see Mogel and Bhagat (2007) and 
the upcoming traveling map archive "We Are Here" part of the exhibit "Experimental 
Geography" ( or http:// 

5 For example, see work on GeoSpatial Intelligence especially the recent talk by Todd 
Hughes on the "Mapping Revolution" ( 

6 These efforts have resulted in other collectives experimenting with map-making as a 
form of intervention and have even helped create a spin-off series of political seminars 
discussing new geo-economic and geopolitical changes through the practice and 
metaphor of mapping. These seminars include periodic engagement and dialogue with 
university scholars, such as the recent seminar ' Continental Drift' in New York with 
David Harvey (see 

58 Sebastian Cobarrubias and John Pickles 

7 See the People's Global Action website ( 
maydayl.htm) for more information. 

8 Bureau d'Etudes Maps (selected), 
Capitalism Archive 

"Governing by Networks" - 

"L"Industrie de Normalisation Europeene" A3.pdf 

"World Government: Barclays pic" - 

"Infowar/Psychic war" - 

"Lagardere: Chronique de Guerre" - 

"Europe" - 

"Media Skills" - 

"Rothschild" - 

"Psywar" - 

"Refuse the Bio-Police" - intro.pdf 

Autonomous Knowledges and Powers 

"Que se Vayan Todos" - 

9 Bureau d'Etudes has additionally helped to establish the Universite Tangente (UT), a 
free web resource and networking space for critical reflection and research regarding 
global transformations, radical activism, and political subjectivity. In turn, this has 
inspired other similar autonomous projects engaging with spatial practices and map- 
ping (see 

10 In this sense, the work of the Bureau d'Etudes can be seen as an important contribu- 
tion to the often overused trope of "flow" as a way to think about globalization. While 
work such as Appadurai's (1996) writings on scapes has been helpful in early con- 
ceptualizations of the spatialities of globalization, the notion of "flow" has become an 
often too easy way to think about and naturalize the global (Thomas Friedmann's 
recent books The Lexus and the Olive Tree and The World is Flat come to mind here). 
Bureau d'Etudes helps by attempting to trace out the "flows" as multiple nexuses of 
complex institutional, legal, economic, or political relations. 

11 At the encounter of Fadaiat 2005 (a gathering dedicated to rethinking forms of 
activism and grassroots communications in southern Spain and northern Morocco) this 
was one of the main calls launched from the workshop on "Tactical Cartographies", 
where Bureau d'Etudes among others participated. Since then different projects have 
been initiated, e.g. the Mapping Contemporary Capitalism project by MUTE magazine 
and others, a draft outline for a program by Bureau d'Etudes themselves, and at least 
two different attempts at designing open source mapping software between hackers 
and activists, Mapomaitx and Car Tac. 

12 Hackitectura also has a complex relation to institutional academic and artistic spaces. 
While individual members may be working as professors or design consultants, 
Hackitectura 's collective projects often occur tangentially to the university and the 
large studio. 

13 See also: plug & play social event, propuesta para atenas 2003/agenciamiento de espa- 
cios publicos, redes tecnologicas y redes sociales/ 2002, detalle/ 
version completa en: 

14 Holmes uses in particular a map called "Centers and Peripheries in the World" that 
opens up the book La Mondialisation du Capital by Francois Chesnais (1997, Paris: 
Syros). Interestingly, Holmes notes that Castells draws on Chesnais several times for 
his analysis in The Rise of the Network Society. The map is a curious adaptation of the 
dymaxion image - known for breaking North-South dichotomies - superimposed with 
a stark center-periphery representation of power (Holmes 2004b: 2-3, see also 

4 From surfaces to networks 

Barney Warf 

One of the most famous debates in the intellectual history of time and space took 
place in the seventeenth century between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. 
For Newton, greatly influenced by the invention of the clock, space was like time: 
If the clock showed that time existed independently of events, then the same was 
true of space. Newton viewed time and space as abstract, absolute entities that 
existed independently of their measurement, ie., their existence was absolute, for 
their reality remained real regardless of whatever they contained or how they 
were measured. He argued in 1687, for example, that "Absolute, true, and math- 
ematical time, of itself, and from its own nature, flows equally without relation to 
anything external" (quoted in Kern 1983: 11). Leibniz, in contrast, disliked the 
primacy of geometry in Cartesian thought, the implicit priority it assigned to 
space over time. Leibniz held that time and space were relational rather than 
absolute in nature, i.e., comprehensible only through frames of interpretation: dis- 
tance, for example, could only be understood as the space between two or more 
objects situated in space. Space and time, therefore, had no independent existence 
in and of themselves, but were derivative of how we measured them. Eventually, 
for reasons having little to do with inherent intellectual merit and much to do with 
the emergence of early capitalist modernity, Newton's view triumphed decisively 
and Leibniz's relational space was "resoundingly defeated in the Enlightenment" 
(Smith 2003: 12). 

This chapter is predicated on the argument that metaphors are a critical means 
by which we understand and appreciate the importance of space and spatiality in 
social life. Metaphors are a means of bridging the known and the unknown, and 
reveal much about a society's assumptions and cultural logics, what it holds to be 
important or normal, or not (Barnes 1991). The focus here is on two radically dif- 
ferent metaphors of spatial relations, surfaces and networks, one historic and the 
other contemporary, which have underpinned popular and intellectual concep- 
tions of geography in a multitude of ways. It begins by examining the rise of sur- 
faces under early modern capitalism, the roles they played in fostering a distinct 
understanding of space conducive to the circuits of capital accumulation then 
stretching across the planet, the rise of the nation-state, and the certainty of visual 
knowledge or "scopic regime" (Gregory 1994) that they sustained. Second, it 
turns to the dynamics of postmodern, globalized capitalism, a world in which 

60 Barney Warf 

space plays a very different role, one in which nation-states have declined in 
significance, and argues that surfaces have been displaced by a new metaphor 
more suitable to the contemporary age: networks. Drawing on the works of sev- 
eral poststructuralists, it offers several examples by which relational space may 
be conceived and portrayed in terms more appropriate to the current historical 
moment. In both cases, the metaphors of space do much more than simply reflect 
social circumstances; rather, they actively contribute to their making. 

Surfaces: making space visible to the ocularcentric ego 

The global expansion of capitalism that began in the sixteenth century brought 
with it innumerable changes in economic, political, cultural, and ideological rela- 
tions. The trading and colonial empires that flourished across the planet brought 
together vast realms of the planet under Western political, economic, and ideo- 
logical domination. Global conquest also initiated a new understanding of the 
world among the elites of Europe, or what Pratt (1992) calls an incipient plane- 
tary consciousness, an understanding of the globe as a unified entity in which 
localities were deeply intertwined. It is Eurocentric to portray this process as sim- 
ply one of reaching out across the surface of the earth; as Massey (2005: 4) notes, 
"Conceiving of space as in the voyages of discovery, as something to be crossed 
and maybe conquered . . . makes space seem like a surface: continuous and 
given" rather than as a mutable social production. 

A central figure in the Renaissance reconceptualization of space was the math- 
ematician and philosopher Rene Descartes. Among his other accomplishments, 
he may be regarded as the founder of modern ocularcentrism, the epistemologi- 
cal standpoint of early modernity that subscribed to the notion of a detached, 
objective observer capable of a "god's eye" view of the world. Descartes pro- 
posed an explanatory model centered on what has come to be known as the 
Cartesian cogito: a disembodied, rational mind without distinct social or spatial 
roots or location (but implicitly male and white). Cartesian rationalism was pred- 
icated on the sharp distinction between the inner reality of the mind and the outer 
reality of objects; the latter could only be brought into the former, rationally at 
least, through a neutral, disembodied gaze situated above space and time. Such a 
perspective presumes that each person is an undivided, autonomous, rational 
subject with clear boundaries between "inside" and "outside," i.e., between self 
and other, body and mind. In geographic terms, ocularcentrism equates perspec- 
tive with the abstract subject's mapping of space. With Descartes's cogito, vision 
and thought became funneled into a spectator's view of the world, one that ren- 
dered the emerging surfaces of modernity visible and measurable and simultane- 
ously rendered the viewer bodyless and placeless. Illumination was conceived to 
be a process of rationalization, of bringing the environment into consciousness 
through the modality of vision. Cosgrove (1999: 18) observes that "Modernity is 
distinguished by its concern with the human eye's physical capacity to register 
and to visualize materiality at every scale." The perspective had deep roots in 
Western history: 6 Tuathail (1996: 70) posits that "What was initiated in Greek 

From surfaces to networks 61 

philosophy was augmented by the innovations of perspectivalism and Cartesianism. 
Perspectivalist vision made a single sovereign eye the center of the visible 
world." Gregory (1994) likewise maintains that the early modern knowledge/ 
power configuration - an historically specific scopic regime - reproduced reality 
in the form of the "world-as-exhibition." Cartesianism was thus simultaneously a 
model of knowledge and of the "individual," i.e., an observer devoid of social 
origins and consequences. 

Co-catalytic with the Cartesian model of the human subject was the geometric 
view of space that it suggested; the ascendance of vision as a criterion for truth 
merged Euclidean geometry with the notion of a detached observer (Hillis 1999). 
This worldview had powerful social and material consequences. Cosgrove (1988: 
256) notes, for example, that "in late Renaissance Italy not only was geometry 
fundamental to practical activities like cartography, land survey, civil engineer- 
ing and architecture, but it lay at the heart of a widely-accepted neo-platonic cos- 
mology." Ideologically, this process led to the mathematicization of the sciences, 
the search for a single set of universal laws, and an enormously powerful scien- 
tific worldview that greatly expedited Europe's technological prowess. As this 
perspective gained currency throughout Europe, the multiple vantage points in art 
or literature typical of the medieval world were steadily displaced by a single dis- 
embodied, omniscient, and panopticonic eye. Rather than the convoluted visual 
and aural worlds central to the medieval world, Renaissance thought emphasized 
homogeneous, ordered visual fields. "It was this uniform, infinite, isotropic space 
that differentiated the dominant modern world view from its various predeces- 
sors" (Jay 1993: 57). That this view arose precisely during the birth of modern 
science was hardly coincidental: as Jay (1993: 52) put it, like vision, space "func- 
tioned in a similar way for the new scientific order. In both cases space was 
robbed of substantive meaningfulness to become an ordered, uniform system of 
abstract linear coordinates." Thus, it was no accident that the Cartesian model 
arose in tandem with capitalism, colonialism, and modern science (Kirby 1996). 
The ascendancy of ocularcentrism also initiated the long-standing Western prac- 
tice of emphasizing the temporal over the spatial. O Tuathail (1996: 24) argues 
that "the privileging of the sense of sight in systems of knowledge constructed 
around the idea of Cartesian perspectivalism promoted the simultaneous and syn- 
chronic over the historical and diachronic in the explanation and elaboration of 

The Renaissance rationalization of space was manifested in the explosion of 
cartography, which, as Harley (1989) stressed, replicated the assumption of an all- 
seeing, invisible creator cloaked in the mantle of objectivity. The rise of modern car- 
tography represented a shift in vision from local topologies to a fine, spatially 
referenced, spherical earth, a homogeneous graticule of latitude and longitude. The 
epistemology of cartography - its ocularcentrism, its purportedly scientific rendition 
of space - served a vital social function. Yet far from constituting a detached, objec- 
tive viewpoint from nowhere, a view that reduces map-making to a technical 
process, cartography was a social process deeply wrapped up in the complex politi- 
cal dynamics of colonialism. Under the expansion of colonial empires, the need to 

62 Barney Warf 

represent distant places - to make them present for those who were not there - rose 
exponentially. Renaissance cartography thus effectively consisted of the "geo- 
graphing" of remote regions to facilitate their control. After all, in order to get to, 
conquer, govern, and administer their colonies, the Europeans first had to know them 
spatially. The grid formed by latitude and longitude was one of several such systems 
deployed worldwide to facilitate the exchange networks of early modern capitalism, 
making space smooth, fungible, and comprehensible by imposing order on an oth- 
erwise chaotic environment. For European navigators, this move entailed smoothing 
space by reducing it to distance, rendering the oceans navigable, and ordering the 
multitude of world's places within a comprehensible schema. The projection of 
Western power across the globe necessitated a Cartesian conceptualization of space 
as one that could be easily crossed, a function well performed by the cartographic 
graticule. Inserting various places in all their unique, messy complexity into a global 
skein of meridians and longitudes positioned innumerable locales into a single, uni- 
fied, coherent, and panopticonic understanding of the world designed by Europeans, 
for Europeans, allowing different locations to be compared and normalized within 
an affirmation of a god-like view over Cartesian space at the global level. Colonial 
mapping was thus not simply a tool for administration, but equally importantly, a 
validation of Enlightenment science and central part of the colonial spatial order: 
mapping offered both symbolic and practical mastery over space. 

Thus, the discourses of space did far more than passively represent entities that 
existed before them, but were actively a part of producing that very geography; 
they were, in short, simultaneously reflective and constitutive of the reality they 
represented. By subjecting the planet's diverse people to the conceptual lens of 
Western modernist rationality, cartography enfolded the world within a particu- 
lar Western way of understanding, one that erected reality as a picture to be gazed 
upon from a distance, a totalized actuality that was ordered and structured, i.e., 
Gregory's (1994) "world-as-exhibition." O'Tuathail (1996: 53) notes that this 
process mirrored the ascending ocularcentrism of the age: 

By gathering, codifying, and disciplining the heterogeneity of the world's 
geography into the categories of Western thought, a decidable, measured, 
and homogeneous world of geographical objects, attributes, and patterns is 
made visible, produced. The geopolitical gaze triangulates the world polit- 
ical map from a Western imperial vantage point, measures it using Western 
conceptual systems of identity /difference, and records it in order to bring it 
within the scope of Western imaginings. 

A parallel transformation occurred within the visual arts, in which bourgeois 
values became increasingly hegemonic (Cosgrove 1984). The key discovery in 
this regard was the invention of linear perspective, first demonstrated by Filippo 
Brunelleschi in 1425, which involved the ability to represent three dimensions on 
a two-dimensional canvas. Thus, "Linear perspective vision was a fifthteenth- 
century artistic invention for representing three-dimensional depth on the two- 
dimensional canvas. It was a geometrization of vision which began as an 

From surfaces to networks 63 

invention and became a convention, a cultural habit of mind" (Romanyshyn 
1993: 349). Mumford (1934: 20) noted that "Perspective turned the symbolic 
relation of objects into a visual relation: the visual in turn became a quantitative 
relation. In the new picture of the world, size meant not human or divine impor- 
tance, but distance." As Johnson (2002: 118) argues, the "replacement of aspec- 
tive art by perspective art was one of the greatest steps forward in human 
civilization." Like cartography, perspective painting served a social purpose and 
a specific, hegemonic power interest, and came into being just as Florence came 
under the panopticonic gaze of the Medici aristocracy (Edgerton 1975). 

Simultaneously, the process of printing deepened and reinforced the emerging 
European ocularcentrism. Printing was the first major step in the mechanization 
of communication, and accelerated the diffusion of information by packaging it 
conveniently, in the process democratizing books. This process undermined the 
centrality of the clergy in the production of knowledge: books, unlike hand- written 
monastic manuscripts, gave their audiences identical copies to read, experience, 
and discuss, and made censorship more difficult as well. Printing thus broke the 
monopoly on learning held by monks and fostered the growth of a lay intelli- 
gentsia. Eisenstein (1979) demonstrated the enormous power of printing in dif- 
fusing knowledge and mass literacy, facilitating the Renaissance, the Protestant 
Reformation, European expansionism, and the rise of modern capitalism and 
science. Printing in vernacular languages began to undermine the hegemony of 
Latin, establishing local tongues as the basis of emergent national identities and 
imagined communities. Anderson (1983) famously argued that nationalism co- 
evolved with the growth of print-based culture once vernacular languages became 
the norm of printed communications, as the printing press connected disparate 
populations spread over wide geographical areas. This process had enormous 
effects on the social and spatial structure of language. As the market for books in 
Latin became gradually saturated, vernacular languages became increasingly 
common and popular. Moreover, this process led to the very idea of a fixed point 
of view, a foundational part of the Cartesian metaphysic that underpinned both 
modern science and modern perspectives on time and space. 

Printing did more than simply accelerate the dissemination of knowledge, 
ideas, and information, it also reinforced the emerging ocularcentrism of early 
modernity. As Jay (1993) and Jenks (1995) noted, the rise of printing, the reliance 
on the written word for communication, and the use of the telescope and micro- 
scope to bring the distant and the invisibly small into view all contributed to the 
tendency to equate seeing with knowing. Epistemologically, printing suggested 
that words were things, situating words in space far more than did writing and 
embedding language in the process of manufacturing, which in turn accelerated 
its commodification. The printing of maps began to accustom Europeans to 
visual, grid-based representations of territorial order, helping to establish abstract 
space as the dominant model of the early modern period. Thus, printing utilized 
the spatial organization of knowledge widely and effectively, generating visual 
surfaces with abundant and intense meanings, with enormous consequences for 
human perceptions of space and time. 

64 Barney Warf 

Finally, the construction of modernist geographies in the form of surfaces 
rested heavily on the rise of the nation-state: Smith (2003: 142) argues "The gen- 
esis of national states as a system for organizing the world's political economy 
provided an eighteenth-century 'spatial fix' for specific economic dilemmas of 
emergent capitalism." The international system legitimated by the Treaty of 
Westphalia in 1 648 underscored the centrality of the nation-state to the early 
modern world system, a world of absolute spaces and explicit, non-overlapping 
boundaries. Such a geopolitical structure was unprecedented: "The modern state 
system of territorially fixed and mutually exclusive sovereignties is an histori- 
cally unique form of spatial organization" (Anderson 1996: 140). 

The shift in scale from the city-state to the "power-container" of the nation- 
state (Giddens 1984) reflected a large variety of factors, including: the intensified 
commodification of land and labor; the centralization of law enforcement, partic- 
ularly regarding property rights; printing and explicit codes of law; the diffusion 
of paper money as a medium of exchange; apparatuses of taxation, surveillance, 
and documentation such as the census; the judiciary and penal systems; and grad- 
ual improvements in transportation such as turnpikes and canals. Within nation- 
states, banking systems created homogeneous financial spaces in which the cost 
of capital was almost totally invariant. Communications systems such as the 
postal service allowed more effective governance (not necessarily democratic), 
and the ability to mobilize the masses during emergencies. Military drafts social- 
ized young men from disparate backgrounds into a national identity. Mass liter- 
acy, newspapers, and the ideology of nationalism also contributed to the 
homogenization of culture that turned feudal societies into nation-states. Foucault 
(1972) stressed that under the disciplinary logic of modernity, vision became 
supervision: it lost the benign status of the detached observer and became a 
means of enforcement and surveillance. He argued that subtle social mechanisms 
of control - the police, the medical system, education, etc. - extended the power 
of the omnipotent sovereign to produce subjects who self-monitored their behav- 
ior, conforming to the taken-for-granted notions instilled in them from birth. 
Nationalism also transformed abstract space into a territory imbued with selective 
interpretations of local history, a homeplace that fused the immemorial past with 
the future destiny of its people. By the early nineteenth century, increasingly stan- 
dardized public education systems played a central role in linking individual 
identities to the state, i.e., raising the scalar level at which people defined them- 
selves and one another. In producing the citizen, the nation-state also constructed 
moral geographies of similarity and difference, inclusion and exclusion, which 
sharply distinguished "us" from "them," amplifying the differences between the 
community of insiders and foreign outsiders. 

This homogenization was perfectly in keeping with the Cartesian view of 
space: as with linear perspective in painting, the nation-state in geopolitics came 
to be defined from a single, fixed viewpoint (Ruggie 1993). "As containers of a 
fledgling modernity, the expansionist new monarchies of the sixteenth century 
were slowly, unevenly, and erratically (depending on the state in question) 
imposing a general perspectivalist vision of space and a neutral conception of 

From surfaces to networks 65 

time upon the territories they incorporated and annexed" (O Tuathail 1996: 12). 
In contrast to feudal empires, which often had diffuse boundaries, the nation-state 
was predicated upon a view of geography as Euclidean, a "horizontal order of 
coexistent places that could be sharply delimited and compartimentalized from 
each other" (6 Tuathail 1996: 4). 

Surfaces as the predominant form through which modern space was constituted 
ontologically and understood epistemologically continued to have a long and 
enduring emphasis in the twentieth century. The rise of logical positivism in the 
late nineteenth century added a aura of scientism to this view, mathematicizing it 
with the disciplines concerned with space such as geography and urban planning 
in the forms of isotropic planes, surfaces in which the distribution of social fea- 
tures is evenly distributed, e.g., the von Thunen model (see Isard 1972). Thus, 
approaches such as Central Place Theory continued a long tradition of ocularcen- 
trism (Gregory 1994). The emphasis on transport costs, as in Weberian location 
theory, reflected their role in the location decisions of firms. Similarly, urban 
space was largely depicted in terms of surfaces of differential rent and commut- 
ing fields. During the post- World War II economic boom, in which markets were 
largely national in scope, transport costs were relatively high, knowledge and 
information were comparatively small proportion of costs of production, and the 
Fordist social contract held sway, the view that geography consisted of neatly 
nested surfaces of minimal heterogeneity was both utilitarian and expedient. 
Places in this conception tended to be viewed as isolated and static, and space in 
general was relegated to a passive role, a mere reflection of economic logic, not 
an actively constituent part. 

The collapse of the surfaces metaphor occurred not because of some abstract 
shift in ideas, but because the world that sustained it drew to a close in the late 
twentieth century. The growth of producer services and "post-industrial society" 
witnessed the steady decline in transportation costs and the rise in importance of 
information as the primary input and output of the division of labor. The steady 
shift from national to global markets likewise undermined the relevance of 
models predicated on isolated localities. Such changes were reflected in different 
meanings assigned to distance, in which topological relations became increas- 
ingly important. As the social and material conditions of modernism gave way to 
the convoluted geographies of globalized post-Fordism, the view of geography as 
simple surfaces, correspondingly, began to yield to new understandings that took 
a very different spatial metaphor as their point of departure. 

Networks: retheorizing space in the age of flexible 

The profound global crisis in Fordism that ended the post-war boom in the 1970s 
was accompanied by numerous birth pangs of a new global economic and social 
order, including: the petroshocks; prolonged deindustrialization in the West; the 
rise of the Newly Industrializing Countries, particularly in East Asia; the end of 
the Bretton- Woods era in 1973 and subsequent shift to floating exchange rates; 

66 Barney Warf 

the growth of third world debt, largely driven by recycled petrodollars; the emer- 
gence of "flexible" specialization, the microelectronics revolution, and comput- 
erized production technologies; and the rapid, sustained growth of financial and 
producer services (Dicken 2007). This collection of events may be viewed as 
moments in the transition into postmodern "flexible" and "disorganized" capital- 
ism (Lash and Urry 1987). Similarly, Bauman (2000) differentiates "heavy" 
modernity, a period lasting from the Renaissance to the late twentieth century, 
from the "light modernity" of contemporary capitalism, one centered on mobile 
rather than fixed capital, speed rather than power, instantaneity rather than dura- 
tion, software rather than hardware, individual rather than collective struggle, 
consumption rather production. 

Globalization has arguably become the defining process of the contemporary 
world. This process extends deep into the historical geography of capitalism; 
Smith (2003), for example, argues that the close of the colonial era at the end of 
the nineteenth century was marked by the need to view space in relative rather 
than absolute terms. While there have been many episodes of globalization in the 
past, the current round, which began in the 1970s, has been particularly rapid and 
penetrating. So extensive has the acceleration in the scope, magnitude, and veloc- 
ity of international transactions become that few analyses of local events and 
processes can afford to ignore it. 

Central to the rise of globalized, postmodern capitalism was the construction 
of a vast web of telecommunications networks, which were crucial to the hege- 
mony of increasingly information-intensive capitalism (Warf 1995; Schiller 
1999). The core of the global telecommunications infrastructure is a seamless net- 
work of fiber optics lines (Graham 1999). Because the implementation of fiber 
lines reflects the powerful vested interests of international capital, these systems 
may be seen quite literally as "power-geometries" (Massey 1993) that ground the 
space of flows within concrete material and spatial contexts. Financial services 
firms were at the forefront of the construction of high-capacity fiber networks in 
large part because they facilitated the use of electronic funds transfer systems, 
which comprise the nervous system of the international financial economy, 
allowing banks to move capital around a moment's notice, arbitrage interest rate 
differentials, take advantage of favorable exchange rates, and avoid political 
unrest. Conventional geographic preoccupations with proximity mean little in 
this case, for the topologies of global finance are formed and deformed at the 
speed of light in ways that the language of location theory cannot capture. 

The largest and most famous of the world's telecommunications networks is 
undoubtedly the internet, an unregulated electronic network connecting an esti- 
mated one billion people in more than 180 countries in 2007. It is arguably the 
quintessential symbol of postmodern capitalism: electronic, globalized, and rap- 
idly evolving. From its military origins in the USA in the 1960s, the internet 
emerged upon a global scale through the integration of existing telephone, fiber 
optic, and satellite systems (Rosenzweig 1998). Spurred by declining prices of 
services and equipment, the internet grew worldwide at stupendous rates, making 
it the most rapidly diffusing technology in history. The internet also annihilates 

From surfaces to networks 67 

distance to an unprecedented degree: distant locales are now just a mouse-click 
away, allowing users to transcend distance virtually instantaneously, generating 
total time-space compression. 

Although their potential impacts are often exaggerated, digital networks 
clearly have substantial, if largely unanticipated, effects upon the social and eco- 
nomic fabric over time (Kitchin 1998). Gregory (1994: 98) maintains that "ever- 
extending areas of social life are being wired into a vast postmodern hyperspace, 
an electronic inscription of the cultural logic of late capitalism." E-commerce 
transformed the internet from a communications to a commercial system, widen- 
ing commodity chains and accelerating the pace of customer orders, procurement, 
production, and product delivery. As virtual reality and "real" reality have become 
ever more tightly interwoven, the digital world has exerted a rapidly increasing 
influence over the social fabric, to the point where distinguishing between these 
two domains no longer seems helpful. Software, for example, through the mutu- 
ally constitutive relationship it enjoys with territory, enables space to unfold in 
multiple ways, such as when it is used to monitor and control automobile and air- 
line traffic, retail trade, and monitor spaces through closed-circuit television 
(Dodge and Kitchin 2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2007). So deeply have email, the World 
Wide Web, and e-commerce penetrated various domains of social life that simple 
dichotomies such as offline/online are insufficient to account for how the virtual 
and real worlds are interpenetrated. Cyberspace may even rework the nature of 
urban space itself: whereas the modern city was characterized by stationary archi- 
tecture and moving masses, the virtual city is one in which the masses sit still 
while the cinematic space of flows swirls around them (Crang 2000). Indeed, in 
a socio-psychological sense, cyberspace may allow for the reconstruction of 
"communities without propinquity," groups of users who share common interests 
but not physical proximity, although the ability of virtual communities to substi- 
tute for face-to-face ones is debatable. The implications of this process are 
sobering. As Graham and Aurigi (1997: 26) note, "Large cities, based, in the past, 
largely on face-to-face exchange in public spaces, are dissolving and fragmenting 
into webs of indirect, specialized relationships." More generally, cheap, instanta- 
neous, and ubiquitous communications have made the notion of place as a 
discreet, bounded entity increasingly problematic by allowing people to be in 
several places simultaneously. In this context, absolute distance is much less 
relevant than relative distance, i.e., space measured in terms of time, cost, and 
social access. 

The ability to transmit vast quantities of information in real time over the planet 
is crucial to what Schiller (1999) calls digital capitalism. No large corporation 
could operate today in multiple national markets simultaneously, coordinating 
the activities of thousands of employees within highly specialized corporate divi- 
sions of labor, without access to sophisticated channels of communications. 
Telecommunication networks also gave many firms markedly greater freedom 
over their locational choices. Transnational corporations - the networks' primary 
users and beneficiaries - rely heavily upon such networks to coordinate and mon- 
itor international transactions, which can be monitored across the globe as easily 

68 Barney Warf 

as if they were in the same building. In dramatically reducing the circulation time 
of capital, telecommunications linked far-flung places together, creating a geogra- 
phy without transport costs. The effectiveness of national controls was markedly 
reduced by the ease with which hypermobile financial capital moves through 
global markets. Thus, as large sums of funds flowed with mounting rapidity across 
national borders, Keynesian monetary monetary policies became increasingly 
ineffective. In a Fordist world system, national monetary controls over exchange, 
interest, and inflation rates are essential; in the globalized post-Fordist system, 
however, those same national regulations become a drag on competitiveness. 

The spatial scale at which globalization operates suggests that national institu- 
tions and processes, which dominated throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth 
centuries, may have reached the limits of their effectiveness. The steady reduction 
in the significance of borders leads inexorably, if unevenly, to a seamlessly inte- 
grated world, a process that is as much political in its construction (e.g. via trade 
agreements) as it is economic. Although the argument that the nation-state is dis- 
appearing has been advanced in occasionally exaggerated and simplistic terms (e.g. 
Ohmae 1990; Gergen 1991), the enormous tsunami of postmodern globalization 
has fundamentally undermined the territorial order of distinct, mutually exclusive, 
sovereign states that has underpinned the international order since the Westphalian 
Peace of 1648. The decline of the nation-state has been fueled, among other things, 
by the rising significance of global problems (e.g., global warming), the threat 
posed by subnational tribal conflicts and transnational ideologies (e.g., Muslim fun- 
damentalism), and mounting international trade and integrated financial markets. In 
this light, the nation-state is being eroded simultaneously "from above," i.e., by the 
growing power of transnational public and private institutions (e.g., the IMF, World 
Bank, and World Trade Organization), as well as those working "from below," that 
is, regional authorities and local movements seeking to attract foreign capital or 
participate in global processes by bypassing their respective national states as well 
as NGOs (Anderson 1996). This transformation makes the simple difference 
between "inside" and "outside" increasingly problematic, rendering national bor- 
ders ever more porous. Numerous observers have therefore suggested that the post- 
modern world order is becoming "unbundled" or "plurilateral" (e.g., Ruggie 1993; 
Elkins 1995; Gilpin 1987), that is to say, it is being displaced by a new territorial 
configuration not predicated on the nation-state. In some respects, the unbundling 
of territorial sovereignty represents a return to medieval structures of territoriality, 
in which the boundaries between the internal and external were messy and ill- 
defined; Lipschutz (1992), for example, describes the postmodern world order as 
something akin to the medieval geography of Europe, in which corporations replace 
the Christian church as the primary source of aerial integration. 

However, it is simplistic to assume that globalization leads inevitably to the 
end of nation-states as they are currently constituted, replacing them with some 
mythical, seamless integrated market that embraces the entire planet. Globalization 
is always refracted through national policies (e.g., concerning labor, the environ- 
ment), which is one reason it has spatially uneven impacts across the world. 
Capitalism is a system predicated on both markets and states, and the political 

From surfaces to networks 69 

geography of globalization is the interstate system (but not the nation-state), the 
existence of which is necessary in order for capital to play states and localities off 
against one another. While globalization clearly undermines the ahistorical reifi- 
cation of nation-states as fixed, eternal entities, it does not automatically spell the 
death of this institution. Because the global and the local are shot through with 
one another, or in Swyngedouw's (1997) term "glocalized," globalization is man- 
ifested differently in different places (Cox 1997), a view that dispels simplistic 
popular assertions that globalization is synonymous with homogenization devoid 
of geographic specificity. 

Resulting directly from the rise of networked post-Fordist production sys- 
tems, a fundamental reworking of the relations between capital and space took 
place, a change with massive political ramifications. In climbing out of the cri- 
sis of Fordism, capital replaced the Keynesian national "spatial fix" (Harvey 
1989) with a highly fluid, globalized set of localities, or what Swyngedow 
(1989) theorizes as regions embedded in a volatile, postmodern "hyperspace." 
Neoliberalism insured that innumerable places throughout the world have been 
opened up to global capital to form an increasingly seamless, if as yet incom- 
pletely integrated, series of networks. Unimpeded by national restrictions undone 
by deregulation, capital roams the globe effortlessly, testimony to the worldwide 
decline in both technological and regulatory barriers. Globalization does not 
lead automatically to a homogenization of local landscapes, however, as the 
global and local become entwined in complex, contingent regional formations of 
capital and labor. 

Concomitant with these changes, social scientists have searched for new 
frames of reference to make sense of the emerging geographies of centrality and 
peripherality unleashed by flexible globalization. While place remains an endur- 
ing feature of contemporary social life, to an ever-increasing extent the geogra- 
phies of postmodernity are defined by mobilities, flows, and networks rather than 
isolated, discreet locales (Crang 2002; Larsen et al. 2006). Under the impetus 
of distance-crushing time-space compression, in Kirby's (1996: 71) words, "The 
distinctions between widely separated geographical entities lose their meaning as 
disparate sites themselves come together in a plastic network making proximity 
and separation relative and mutable." Location, in short, has become increasingly 
a matter of production and negotiation rather than being given a priori. If the sur- 
faces that characterized the geographies of modernity have declined in utility, the 
spatial metaphor that has taken their place centers on networks, which Ruggie 
(1993: 141) likens to the "economic equivalent of relativity theory." Unlike the 
surfaces of modernity (e.g., the nation-state, urban commuting fields), postmod- 
ern society exhibits a "fibrous, thread-like, wiry, stringy, ropy, capillary charac- 
ter that is never captured by the notions of levels, layers, territories, spheres, 
categories, structures, or systems" (Paasi 2004: 541). Not coincidentally, this 
transformation occurred precisely when geography moved from being a stagnant 
conceptual backwater to one taken increasingly seriously by other disciplines. 
Contemporary globalization has undermined commonly held notions of Euclidean 
space by forming linkages among disparate producers and consumers intimately 

70 Barney Warf 

connected over vast distances through flows of capital and goods. Arjun 
Appadurai (1996) has argued that the postmodern world is essentially fractal, 
that the Euclidean boundaries and structures characteristic of modernity have 
melted away in the face of the white-hot fires of time-space compression. In 
Sheppard's (2002) view, global power-geometries cut across spatial scales to cre- 
ate "wormholes" that defy the traditional logic of economic geography (also see 
Brenner 1998). 

Temporally, the rise of networked capitalism has been accompanied by accel- 
erated rhythms of production and interaction, with important consequences for 
the meaning of spatiality, or as Luke and O Tuathail (1998: 72) put it, "the power 
of pace is outstripping the power of place." Nonetheless, simply noting the accel- 
eration of acceleration, so to speak, ignores deeper, more meaningful issues as to 
who benefits (and why) and who loses out (and why). "The really serious ques- 
tion which is raised by speed-up, by 'the communications revolution' and by 
cyberspace, is not whether space will be annihilated but what kinds of multiplic- 
ities (patternings of uniqueness) and relations will be co-constructed with these 
new kinds of spatial configurations" (Massey 2005: 91). Even more radically, 
Deleuze and Guattari (1987) offered a "schizophrenic" reconceptualization of 
postmodern space, one centered on rapidity, movement, and constant flux with- 
out the usual co-ordinates of distance and direction. The metaphor of the rhizome, 
so different from the transparent spaces of Euclideanism, offers a view of space 
as inherently and interconnected sets of networks, non-hierarchical in nature, in 
which connections among locales rather than their absolute positionality is the 
dominant characteristic. For this reason, rhizomes have become a popular means 
to envision networks such as the internet. 

Envisioning space as networks rather than surfaces has taken several forms in 
poststructuralist social science. While there are wide variations among them, all 
poststructuralist perspectives take seriously the role of power, language, and his- 
torical context, the contingent nature of social life, and the heterogeneity among 
and within social formations. Three perspectives are examined here in short 
vignettes designed to reveal geography as interconnected networks rather than a 
series of discreet locales: the space of flows, commodity chains, and actor- 
networks. All of them emphasize space as produced, not given; all focus on the 
relational characteristics of place rather than absolute location; in all of them, dis- 
tance is defined functionally rather than in terms of physical length; and all tran- 
scend the traditional notion of spatial scale as fixed. 

The space of flows 

Castells (1996, 1997) distinguished earlier information societies, in which pro- 
ductivity was derived from access to energy and the manipulation of materials, 
from later informational societies that emerged in the late twentieth century, in 
which productivity is derived primarily from knowledge and information. In his 
reading, the time-space compression of postmodernism was manifested in the 
global "space of flows," including the three "layers" of transportation and 

From surfaces to networks 71 

communication infrastructure, the cities or nodes that occupy strategic locations 
within these, and the social spaces occupied by the global managerial class: 

Our societies are constructed around flows: flows of capital, flows of infor- 
mation, flows of technology, flows of organizational interactions, flows of 
images, sounds and symbols. Flows are not just one element of social organ- 
ization: they are the expression of the processes dominating our economic, 
political, and symbolic life. . . . Thus, I propose the idea that there is a new 
spatial form characteristic of social practices that dominate and shape the 
network society: the space of flows. The space of flows is the material organ- 
ization of time-sharing social practices that work through flows. By flows I 
understand purposeful, repetitive, programmable sequences of exchange and 
interaction between physically disjointed positions held by social actors. 

(1996: 412) 

For Castells (1996: 470), this transformation is best understood through the 
metaphor of rhizomatic networks: 

Networks are appropriate instruments for a capitalist economy based on 
innovation, globalisation, and decentralised concentration; for work, work- 
ers and firms based on flexibility; for a culture of endless deconstruction 
and reconstruction; for a polity geared towards the instant processing of 
new values and public moods; for a social organisation aiming at the super- 
session of space and the annihilation of time. 

He notes, for example, that while people live in places, postmodern power is 
manifested in the linkages among places, their interconnectedness, as personified 
by business executives shuttling among global cities and using the internet to 
weave complex geographies of knowledge invisible to almost all ordinary citizens. 
This process was largely driven by the needs of the transnational class of the pow- 
erful employed in information-intensive occupations; hence, he writes (1996: 415) 
that "Articulation of the elites, segmentation and disorganization of the masses 
seem to be the twin mechanisms of social domination in our societies." Flows thus 
consist of corporate and political elites crossing international space on trans- 
oceanic flights; the movements of capital through telecommunications networks; 
the diffusion of ideas through organizations stretched across ever-longer distances; 
the shipments of goods and energy via tankers, container ships, trucks, and rail- 
roads; and the growing mobility of workers themselves. In this light, the space of 
flows is a metaphor for the intense time-space compression of post-Fordist capi- 
talism. Through the space of flows the global economy is coordinated in real time 
across vast distances, i.e., horizontally integrated chains rather than vertically inte- 
grated corporate hierarchies. In the process, it has given rise to a variety of new 
political formations, forms of identity, and spatial associations. 

Flows by definition involve more than one place; hence, in a networked world, 
places have little meaning as isolated entities. Places are not locales as much as they 

72 Barney Warf 

are processes in which different types of activities are embedded and different 
forms of interconnection are established. As they become increasingly connected, 
the repercussions of actions in one area inevitably spiral out to shape other places, 
so that discreet boundaries have less and less significance as they are permeated 
with mounting ease. Decisions made by hedge fund managers in New York, for 
example, reach out to affect the lives of millions of people in locations as distant as 
East Asia. The space of flows wraps places into highly unevenly connected chains 
that center on connections among powerful elites, thus typically benefiting the 
wealthy at the expense of marginalized social groups. However, the global space of 
flows is hardly randomly distributed over the earth's surface: rather, it reflects and 
reinforces existing geographies of power concentrated within specific nodes and 
places, such as global cities, trade centers, financial hubs, and headquarter com- 
plexes. Thus, far from being abstract networks divorced from history, such systems 
are only made comprehensible by embedding them in history (Cresswell 2006). 

Commodity chains 

Another step in the theorization of space as networks is the notion of commodity 
chains (Gereffi and Korzeniewicz 1994; Dicken et al. 2001). Drawing from the 
earlier French tradition of filieres or value chain analysis, commodity chains may 
be defined as networks of labor and production processes that give rise to a par- 
ticular commodity from raw material to processing, delivery, and consumption. 
Commodity chains include flows of goods and information among different 
points or nodes, varying labor relations across the length of the chain, and differ- 
ent constellations of production and governance at each segment. Such tools are 
useful in dissecting, for example, the spatiality of transnational corporations. 
Under globalization, commodity chains became increasingly larger in scope and 
length, linking widespread places through an increasingly complex division of 
labor in which distant strangers became ever more reliant upon one another. 

Gereffi (1996) distinguished between producer-driven and buyer-driven 
chains, in which the power to control transactions lay at different ends of the con- 
catenated linkages. In overcoming the artificial separation between production 
and consumption, commodity chains help to expose the widespread commodity 
fetishism prevalent in advanced economies, exposing commodities, a la Marx, as 
more than just things but as embodiments of social processes and thus helping to 
expose the unequal power relations among places that lie in the creation of goods. 
Chains are hence simultaneously geographical, economic, political, and cultural. 
They lie at the boundaries of the tangible and the intangible, incorporating sets of 
meanings, or as Hartwick (1998: 424) elegantly put it, they "conjoin the repre- 
sentational with the geomaterial." Moreover, they are temporally situated, con- 
stantly fluctuating in location, composition, and length over time. 


A third moment in this line of reasoning is actor-network theory (Murdoch 1997, 
1998; Law and Hassard 1999). Inspired by the work of Bruno Latour (1993) (and 

From surfaces to networks 73 

Serres 1997; Serres and Latour 1995), actor-network theory incorporates socio- 
logical understandings of structuration theory (Giddens 1984) with a poststruc- 
turalist, French, social-constructivist philosophy of science (Bingham and Thrift 
2000). Actor-network theory departs from the Enlightenment focus on dualities 
such as individual and society, people and nature, human and nonhuman, Western 
and non- Western, urban and rural, micro and macro, local and global. Rather, it 
takes as its point of departure the linkages among these categories rather than their 
essences as actors draw upon and combine them in various forms of hybridity. 

Networks involve the mobilization of rules, resources, and power, including 
information, in order to accomplish tasks, creating a net of intended and unin- 
tended consequences that stretch across the spatio-temporal boundaries of the net- 
work. To maintain network functionality, actors must perform by being engaged 
with one another recursively, interpreting and translating one another's behavior. 
Actors and networks are thus twin, mutually presupposing aspects of one phe- 
nomenon, simultaneously enabling and constraining actions in time and space. 
Because actor-network theory strives to overcome the artificial boundaries 
between culture and nature (Latour 1993), actors in this socio-technical seamless 
"nature-culture" nexus need not be human, but may include inanimate objects 
such as books, papers, or computer systems (Bingham 1996; Murdoch 1997), 
which are necessary to the maintenance and operation of networks. 

Thus, it is not simply actors in everyday life who constitute the primary focus 
here, but their relative positionality and powers within integrated systems of 
power and information that matters most. For example, Thrift and Leyshon 
(1994) employed actor-network theory to examine the dynamics of global capital 
markets as they are structured by firms, nation-states, the media, and telecom- 
munications, all of which are deployed simultaneously to produce, transmit, and 
consume knowledge about markets and other actors. Such a perspective has 
helped to humanize even the most abstract of economic processes by revealing 
them to be the products of agents enmeshed in webs of power and meaning, not 
disembodied processes that operate independently of the people who create them 
(Law 1994). The strategy of embodiment goes a long way toward demythologiz- 
ing teleological interpretations of globalization, which present it as natural and 
inevitable, and reveal global processes to be the contingent outcomes of decisions 
made by human actors tied up in networks that cross multiple spatial scales. 

Such a view elides the conventional focus on spatial scale, for networks operate 
across many scales simultaneously, creating as Latour (1993: 121) put it, "an 
Ariadne's thread that allows us to pass with continuity from the local to the global, 
from the human to the nonhuman. It is the thread of networks of practices and 
instruments, of documents and translations." Likewise, Massey's (1999) well- 
received notion of power-geometries has called attention to the intertwined scales 
of the global, national, and local, refusing to see these as a simple hierarchy in 
which the global determines the local; the distinctions among these scales are as 
misleading as they are enlightening. Smith (1993) argues that scale is produced 
through and constitutive of social relationships, and Thrift (1995: 33) goes so far 
to claim "There is no such thing as scale." By forcing us to rethink how time and 
space are produced - that is, topologically rather than in terms of conventional 

74 Barney Warf 

Cartesian and Kantian views of space that have dominated geography - actor- 
network theory becomes "a machine for waging war on Euclideanism" (Law, 
quoted in Murdoch 1998: 357). 

Concluding thoughts 

The rise of post-Fordist globalized networks of people, capital, goods, and ideas 
changed many theorists' view of space from the notion of absolute, Cartesian 
notion - static, fixed, and lying outside of society, or space as a container - to rel- 
ative and relational space, space as socially constructed by people, and thus fluid, 
folded, twisted by chains, pleated, and unstable (Murdoch 2006). Thus, the rise 
of social constructivism and the view of space as networks are deeply inter- 
twined: to see geography as produced, not given, is to view it as consisting of and 
constructed by chains of causality in which distance is relational, not absolute. 
Unlike surfaces, which have traditionally been portrayed as containers "outside" 
of society and thus "holding" it, networks explicitly admit to their human con- 
struction. As Mann (1986) insists, societies are never unitary, bounded states, but 
multiple, overlapping, intersecting, and contingent networks of power stretched 
unevenly across time and space. No social formation is thus a totally unified 
entity, but rather forms an open-ended lattice of relations; societies do not just 
occupy space, they manufacture networks. Such a notion is disconcerting to those 
accustomed to thinking of geography in Cartesian terms, i.e., as the smooth sur- 
face of a globe. As Latour (1993: 77) maintains, "How are we to gain access to 
networks, those beings whose topology is so odd and whose ontology is even 
more unusual, beings that possess both the capacity to produce both time and 

In this light, geography is not simply territorial, but something altogether dif- 
ferent, more complex, and more interesting. Postmodern, poststructural theories 
such as commodity chains and actor-networks greatly accelerated the rise of rela- 
tional views of space. In this context, Harvey (2006: 121-3) offers a useful defi- 
nition of absolute, relative, and relational space: 

Absolute space is fixed and we record or plan events within its frame. This 
is the space of Newton and Descartes and it is usually represented as a pre- 
existing and immoveable grid amenable to standardized measurement and 
open to calculation. Geometrically it is the space of Euclid and therefore 
the space of all manner of cadastral mapping and engineering practices. . . . 
The relative notion of space is mainly associated with the name of Einstein 
and the non-Euclidean geometries that began to be constructed most sys- 
tematically in the 19th century. Space is relative in the double sense: that 
there are multiple geometries from which to choose and that the spatial 
frame depends crucially upon what it is that is being relativized and by 
whom. . . . The relational concept of space is most often associated with the 
name of Leibniz who . . . objected vociferously to the absolute view of 
space and time so central to Newton's theories. His primary objection was 

From surfaces to networks 75 

theological. Newton made it seem as if even God was inside of absolute 
space and time rather than in command of spatio-temporality. By exten- 
sion, the relational view of space holds there is no such thing as space or 
time outside of the processes that define them. . . . Processes do not occur 
in space but define their own spatial frame. (Italics in original.) 

Thus, whereas Newton's emphasis on absolute space prevailed in the seventeenth 
century and dominated for the next three centuries, the last laugh belongs to 

Poststructural geography, in emphasizing the embodied nature of social life as 
situated practices, drew attention away from space as an inert container and 
toward interconnected sets of places as manifolds that are continuously folded 
and pleated, stretched, distorted, and shredded. This perspective has served to 
underscore how, unlike traditional chorology, with its emphasis on static places, 
relational geographies are always dynamic, incomplete, forever coming into 
being, and perpetually in flux, giving rise to ever-changing patterns of centrality 
and peripherality. Geography consists of the contingent networks or power- 
geometries generated by social interaction rather than a homogeneous plane that 
pre-exists coherent, well ordered societies. In short, space is emergent rather than 
existing a priori, it is composed of relations rather than structures. Relational 
space "is seen as an undulating landscape in which the linkages established in 
networks draw some locations together while at the same time pushing others fur- 
ther apart" (Murdoch 2006: 86). Taken to the extreme, Doel (1999) follows 
Deleuze and Guattari in emphasizing the origami-like nature of space as it is 
repeatedly folded and refolded, fissured, cracked, and fractalized through a series 
of difference-producing repetitions. 

Massey (1993) criticizes notions that maintain place is an island of stability in 
the constantly shifting oceans of capitalist change, arguing that such a character- 
ization is reactionary. Rather, she promotes a progressive sense of place that links 
places to other places, a view in which places constantly change, producing and 
receiving changes through their interactions with one another. A relational poli- 
tics of place calls into question easy distinctions like inside/outside, near/far, 
space/place, and global/local, artificial differentiations that are always embedded 
in each other and mutually constituted. She argues passionately (2005) that 
Cartesian conceptions of space as a passive surface inevitably de-emphasize the 
temporal flux that is always an inherent part of geographies, and simultaneously 
create a false dichotomy between the local and the global. As an alternative, she 
suggests three maxims: 1) that space be seen as the product of interrelations, i.e., 
of embedded social practices in which identities and human ties are co-constituted; 
2) that space be understood as the sphere of multiple possibilities, i.e., as a con- 
tingent simultaneity of heterogeneous historical trajectories; and 3) that space 
must be conceived as always under construction, in the process of forever being 
made, implying a continual openness to the future. These steps are fundamental 
to an appreciation of the deeply political nature of geography: "Conceptualising 
space as open, multiple and relational, unfinished and always becoming, is a 

76 Barney Warf 

prerequisite for history to be open and thus a prerequisite too, for the possibility 
of politics" (p. 59). 

Finally, poststructuralism has also been accompanied by a questioning of the 
ocularcentrism so taken-for-granted by modernist thought. Vision, as Jay (1993) 
argues, is not simply a function of biology, but also an historically specific way of 
knowing the world. To visualize - to gain insight, to keep an eye on something - 
is to invoke a host of cultural and linguistic tools to make sense of reality. The 
equation of vision with truth, in this perspective, is essentially a positivist assump- 
tion that denies the possibility of other ways of understanding the world, particu- 
larly aural ones (Sui 2000). Rather than "looking down" on subjects and spaces, 
post-positivist modes of understanding include the tactile spaces of the body, the 
phenomenology of everyday life, and the centrality of language in the constructing 
of knowledge. Thus, poststructuralism has emphasized uncertainty and difference 
rather than certainty and similarity, truth as embodied, negotiated and produced 
rather than given. In place of the all-knowing Cartesian observer, poststructuralist 
thought has emphasized the positionality of the situated observer, whose view- 
point is always partial, incomplete, and power-laden. As Rorty (1981) famously 
noted, once we abandon the positivist metaphor of the mirror as the basis of objec- 
tive knowledge, we are led to the metaphor of the conversation, in which language, 
positionality, and dialogue are central. 

5 Geography, post-communism, 
and comparative politics 

Jeffrey Kopstein 

The waves of democratization and de-democratization that swept over the 
Eurasian landmass in the 35 years after 1974 spawned an industry of interpreta- 
tion. In particular, the collapse of communist governments from Berlin to Ulan 
Bator after 1989 and the emergence of 28 post-communist states offered social 
scientists an irresistible laboratory for testing some of their most cherished 
hypotheses about the nature of political change and conditions under which 
democracies thrive or collapse. Multiple countries emerging from a form of gov- 
ernment that imposed unprecedented kinds of institutional, economic, and social 
standardization offered a comparable starting point. Even more appealing for 
cross-national research, by the mid-1990s the variation in outcomes was already 
easy to see. Considering the similarity of these countries when they began their 
post-communist journeys, the huge variation in regime-types that quickly emerged 
cried out for some sort of explanation. What accounts for this variation? Why did 
some countries have it easier than others? Why were some able to quickly con- 
solidate democracies (even with very little previous democratic experience), why 
did others fail to move far from authoritarianism or slide back to authoritarianism 
after an abortive flirtation with democracy, and why did a large group end up as 
hybrid regimes, neither fully democratic nor completely authoritarian but some- 
thing in between? 

The tools and concepts of political geography seemed especially appropriate 
for addressing this nexus of questions. First, since the countries of the post- 
communist world were all geographically contiguous, they could conceivably be 
thought of as constituting one big "region." It stood to reason that what happened 
in one place would influence developments in another. Second, there was an 
older, if not always respectable, German and central European tradition of polit- 
ical geography in the borderlands of Europe, some of it invoking conservative 
geopolitical thought to account for shifting fortunes of nations and empires. Other 
strands of continental thought attempted to explain the neat geographical varia- 
tion in economic and political conditions already apparent to eighteenth- and 
nineteenth-century observers of the European continent with the notion of a 
Kulturgefalle or cultural gradient (Burleigh 1988). As questionable as some of 
these methods and concepts were, they did share an elective affinity with the intu- 
itions of most Western experts on the region who, when asked in 1989 which 

78 Jeffrey Kopstein 

countries would ultimately "succeed" (a concept best left vague), normally 
pointed to the states bordering Western Europe, with the variance in success and 
failure increasing as one moved further east and south across the continent. 

Notwithstanding this conventional wisdom, a wisdom easily accessible to 
scholars and the general public on the pages of the New York Review of Books 
with article after article during the 1980s both calling for and describing the 
"return to Europe" of Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, this was not the 
direction taken by the subfield of specialists in political science in comparative 
politics in its initial accounting for change. The field of comparative politics, 
which had emerged after World War II in the USA, had never fully integrated 
political geography into its intellectual apparatus for the simple reason that it was 
set up to study the politics of "foreign countries" (Janos 1986). The essence of 
comparative politics is the comparative method and for political scientists the nat- 
ural units of comparison are countries. Comparativists (as students of compara- 
tive politics refer to themselves) therefore tended to treat countries as discrete 
units, explaining the variation between them as the product of variations in what 
was going on within them individually. This method provided maximum infer- 
ential leverage by multiplying the number of cases with variation on both inde- 
pendent and dependent variables. In addition, for a generation of modernization 
theorists it opened the tantalizing possibility of some sort of universal history 
through which all countries pass in one way or another on their way to democ- 
racy. This orthodoxy was attacked by neo-Marxists and world system theorists in 
the 1970s. They pointed to the interdependence of cases - the North became rich 
and democratic, so the argument ran, because the South remained poor and 
authoritarian. This attack, however, lost traction when confronted with the suc- 
cess of Japan, Korea, and ultimately China in changing their position in the global 
hierarchy, which in turn was explained by the internal policies and features of 
these countries (Johnson 1982). 

The first wave of comparativists therefore largely ignored the conventional 
wisdom and proceeded to explain variation in political and economic outcomes 
in the post-communist world by factors internal to the cases themselves. Hungary 
and Poland succeeded in consolidating their democracies because of features 
internal to Hungary and Poland. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan remained author- 
itarian for reasons to be found within the economies and societies of those coun- 
tries. Success and failure were explained as a function of institutional design, 
sequences of reform, and the ability or inability to marginalize opponents of 
democracy. The spatial turn in comparative politics came as a response to this 
first generation of explanations, which themselves seemed unable to account for 
why some countries chose the "right" institutions, why others were able to 
sequence their reforms properly, and why the enemies of democracy could be cast 
aside in some countries but not in others. In what follows, I outline this shift in 
more detail. Yet, the story does not end there. The next section shows that once 
the spatial turn had been accepted as identifying an important correlative rela- 
tionship, once "geography" seemed to account for so much of the variation in 
post-communist outcomes, comparativists began to question this explanation and 

Geography and comparative politics 79 

ask, what is the real variable for which geography is the proxy? Some maintained 
that the impressive statistical relationships were really tapping into deeper histor- 
ical as opposed to spatial structures. Others contended that the real causal vari- 
able underlying the spatial dependence of outcomes was policy choices made in 
Western capitals, especially in Brussels. In the final section, I argue that these are 
important addendums to the spatial turn but they do not invalidate it. Even once 
other, competing explanations for the variation in post-communist outcomes are 
taken into account, there is an important residual element of geography and spa- 
tial dependence that cannot be dismissed or reduced to other factors. 

From transitology to comparative politics 

It should not be surprising that students of post-communist politics looked to 
comparative politics, which had been studying transitions to democracy since the 
beginning of the "third wave" in 1974. Of course, there was much debate, some 
of it heated, about whether the ideas and concepts of "transitology," which had 
developed using the cases of Southern Europe and Latin America, were appro- 
priate for studying the post-communist experience (Schmitter and Karl 1994; 
Bunce 1994). The critics of transitology not only remarked on its teleological 
character - it appeared to anticipate no other possible outcome than democracy - 
but also its lack of attention to the history of particular cases. It was probably 
inevitable, however, that once the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe disap- 
peared, students of other regions of the world would find it easy and irresistible 
to apply their methods and concepts to a new region. Additionally, the kinds of 
questions that the transitologists asked were important ones. What are the modal 
sequences by which authoritarians cede power to those committed to multiparty 
elections? Under what conditions is the transition peaceful or violent? (Linz and 
Stepan 1996; O'Donnell and Schmitter 1986). How can a sense of community be 
reconstructed after a brutal dictatorship? How can the competing demands of dif- 
ferent ethnic communities be accommodated? Do some kinds of constitutional 
structures and political institutions work better than others? Is it wiser for post- 
communist leaders to privatize and marketize their state-run economies quickly 
or does this cause political instability? 

The transitologists never claimed that democracy was inevitable, but the 
answers to these questions implied that whether it did take root was a function of 
human will and choice. The literature on transitions to, and consolidation of, 
democracy expressed a deep commitment to the importance of human agency 
(DiPalma 1990). In doing so, it was responding to an earlier generation of theo- 
rists who claimed to have found a set of preconditions for democracy, the most 
important one being economic development (Lipset 1963). Yet the collapse of 
communism and the rapid fielding of multiparty elections almost everywhere 
appeared to demonstrate that there were no preconditions for democratic rule, or, 
if such preconditions existed, they were minimal and could easily be compen- 
sated for by committed leaders, sensitively handled transfers of power, and clev- 
erly crafted institutions. 

80 Jeffrey Kopstein 

Comparativists took the next step and attempted to identify the conditions 
under which democracy became "the only game in town" (Przeworski 1991). 
Using cross-national research designs and drawing on the experience of Latin 
America and Southern Europe, students examined the impact of different 
executive-legislative and electoral system designs on democratic outcomes. One 
finding was that, the stronger the presidency, the less likely a country was to 
become and remain a democracy (Linz and Stepan 1996; Fish 1998). The lesson 
was clearly to choose the right institutions. Other comparativists remarked on the 
importance of driving the communists from office quickly in order to set the stage 
for good economic policy and economic recovery, which in turn would help con- 
solidate democracy (Fish 1999). 

It is appropriate at this point to note that some comparativists maintained that 
while comparisons are crucial, the concepts and ideas drawn from other regional 
contexts might not easily travel to the post-communist world. The most salient 
distinguishing feature of the post-communist context, of course, was the experi- 
ence of communism itself (Jowitt 1992; Hanson 1995). Empirical research 
quickly confirmed that there was indeed something different about the commu- 
nist world. For example, Howard's (2003) cross-national research on civil society 
showed membership in social organizations to be systematically lower in all post- 
communist societies than in other formerly authoritarian countries. Likewise, 
transition economics repeatedly noted just how different the political economy of 
post-communism would be due to the lack of a pre-existing moneyed middle 
class. Last but not least, the Balkan wars of the 1990s and at first hot and then 
frozen conflicts in the southern portions of the former Soviet Union demonstrated 
how difficult it would be to construct viable national communities after decades 
of suppressing ethnic identities. 

But if the legacies of communism were ubiquitous, their impacts were unevenly 
distributed. Some countries managed to establish stable institutions of democratic 
representation, viable market economies, and reasonable modes of intercommunal 
relations. Others could not. If the difference between the cases of success and fail- 
ure was really one of human will that set some countries on the right path and oth- 
ers on the wrong path, what explained this distribution of choices? In fact, looking 
at the map of the formerly communist world, it became apparent that the virtues 
associated with the right choices (parliamentary versus presidential government, 
electing the communists out of office in the first election, quickly marketizing the 
economy, finding a mode of coexistence between ethnic groups) were distributed 
in a remarkably neat and regressive geographical pattern across the Eurasian land- 
mass. If post-communist outcomes were path-dependent, if there was a significant 
lock-in effect from the initial institutional and policy choices made by post- 
communist elites, then a natural question to ask was, what determined the path? 

The spatial turn 

Drawing on important works within economic geography, some economists 
pointed to the spatial advantages and increasing returns to scale associated with 

Geography and comparative politics 8 1 

access to markets in the West enjoyed by countries bordering on the European 
Union. The spatial revolution quickly spread beyond economics, however. 
Widely available GIS software and computing capacity permitted the identifica- 
tion of a broad range of patterns in social and even political developments in the 
post-communist world. Furthermore, these spatial patterns could be tested against 
both accounts, i.e., those emphasizing policy and institutional choices and those 
underlining the impacts of communist legacies. 

Kopstein and Reilly (2000, 2003), inspired by the work of political geographer 
John O'Loughlin and assisted by the statistical software of Luc Anselin 
(O'Loughlin et al. 1994), showed that the evidence for the spatial determinants 
of post-communist outcomes was just as compelling as the evidence for tempo- 
ral path-dependence. They suggested that the diffusion of the resources, institu- 
tions, and norms necessary to post-communist success had been proceeding in a 
geographical pattern across the Eurasian landmass. Several tests of this proposi- 
tion were performed, each designed to get at an element of the phenomenon. The 
crudest test was the insertion of a control variable for "distance from Berlin or 
Vienna, whichever is closer" from each post-communist capital city into pooled 
cross-sectional time series, using yearly data, with the dependent variable being 
Polity IV scores for democracy minus autocracy (a standard measure used in 
political science). The main control variables deployed measured whether or not 
the communists were removed from office the first elections and the Dow Jones 
score for bureaucratic rectitude for each post-communist country. The results 
were highly suggestive and demonstrated that spatial explanations, even crude 
ones, could hold their own against two of the most cherished hypotheses of the 
comparative politics literature - one stressing the impact of the transition itself 
and the other focusing in on the long-term effects of different legacies of bureau- 
cratic efficiency. 

A more sophisticated test using scores of each post-communist country's geo- 
graphically contiguous neighbors to predict the Polity IV democracy scores 
yielded even more powerful statistical relationships, suggesting that not only a 
country's distance from the West but its location, no matter where it may be, 
exercised a profound impact on the post-communist experience. This neighbor- 
hood effect helped countries if their neighbors were democratic and hurt coun- 
tries if they were caught in a zone of authoritarianism, war, or religious 
fanaticism. Furthermore both the Gi* and the Moran's I statistic showed a high 
degree of spatial autocorrelation, something best visualized on maps (which are 
still rare in political science journals). Certain countries, such as Germany, 
Austria, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, appeared to exercise especially powerful 
effects on their neighbors, suggesting that with more effort and better data these 
spatial relationships could be teased out with greater specificity. 

In addition to these statistical tests, case studies also showed the powerful 
influence of neighborhood. Two interesting cases here were Slovakia and 
Kyrgyzstan. After communism, Slovakia systematically pursued what political 
scientists characterize as "bad" policies. Under the would-be authoritarian 
Vladimir Meciar, property was privatized to cronies, political opponents were 

82 Jeffrey Kopstein 

harassed and jailed, and the Hungarian minority's language rights were continu- 
ously put under threat. Meciar initially succeeded in dividing the opposition, who 
spent more time denouncing each other than in organizing against the creeping 
dictatorship. Yet, the threat of exclusion from both NATO and the European 
Union at a time when the country's two primary external referents, Hungary and 
the Czech Republic, were about the gain entry to both, encouraged the opposition 
to overcome its own internal problems and unite to defeat Meciar in a national 
election. Research also showed that the opposition benefited from the attention 
lavished upon it by democratic parties and governments in neighboring countries, 
such as Austria and, slightly more distant, Germany, but also from its partners in 
the Visegrad group. In Slovakia's case, good geography helped overcome bad 
policies and choices. The same goes for Hungary, Croatia, and Poland, all of 
which were able to suppress the most pernicious forms of nationalism in the 
hopes of gaining entry to the European Union. 

No such logic holds for Kyrgyzstan, where bad geography ultimately trumped 
multiple efforts at good policies. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, 
Kyrgyzstan was led by a former physicist, Askar Akaev, who had a reputation 
for being liberal and committed to integration with the West. His country quickly 
left the ruble zone and was the first post-Soviet state to join the World Trade 
Organization. Notwithstanding these achievements, the country's democracy rat- 
ings steadily deteriorated. For one thing, Western attention was sporadic. Foreign 
investment tended to be purely resource-based and frequently sought licenses and 
advantages by corrupting the government. Kyrgyzstan' s powerful neighbors, 
especially Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, consistently applied pressure on democ- 
rats with the intention of heading off any contagion into their own dictatorial 
states. Akaev's rule devolved into a dictatorship which was ultimately over- 
thrown in the wake of a rigged election in 2005. Yet, despite the attempt at dem- 
ocratic renewal, Akaev's successor, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, found equally few 
consistent friends in the West and quickly began subverting the democratic gains 
of the "tulip revolution." The most interested parties remained the local and pow- 
erful neighboring dictators in Central Asia and Russia. The result has been a 
steady slide back toward authoritarianism. 

Lankina and Getachew (2006) extend the spatial diffusion research program in 
an interesting way. Whereas Kopstein and Reilly found no evidence for the 
impact of diffusion from the West on Russia's politics (hypothesizing that the 
large "civilizational" countries may be more impervious to outside influences), 
Lankina and Getachew demonstrate that spatial diffusion appears to be at work 
not only between countries of the post-communist world but also within them. 
They attempt to explain variation in levels of openness and democracy in 
Russia's 89 regions. Even with authoritarian leaders dominating the national 
stage, they find that "diffusion processes and targeted foreign aid help advance 
democratization at the sub national level in post communist states and other set- 
tings." Their study makes the case for a "geographic incrementalist" theory of 
democratization through a statistical analysis of over 1,000 projects carried out 
by the EU in Russia's regions over a 14-year period. The EU's commitment to 

Geography and comparative politics 83 

democracy is especially apparent in regions located on its eastern frontier. This 
interest, as well as other processes of diffusion from the West, has systematically 
made these regions more democratic over time even if they began their post- 
communist journey more closed than their eastern regional counterparts. 

The use of concepts and methods from geography draws our attention not only 
to important sources of political change, it also helps us get a purchase on our 
emerging mental map of the globe's regions. As the processes of change unfold, 
political geography helps us understand how new regions take shape out of a for- 
merly singular post-communist space. As these spaces become invested with 
meaning (a process in which scholars may influence the reality they analyze), 
they will make the transition from spaces to places. 

Lankina's and Getachew's observation, however, that the EU provided the 
push for this redefinition of post-communist spaces raises the crucial question of 
whether geography is simply a proxy for other causal processes. If true, then per- 
haps "space" and "place" are not the genuine sources of variation in outcomes. 
Perhaps other variables are "doing the work." This idea, in fact, has been the 
dominant reception of the spatial turn within comparative politics. The reaction 
of most comparativists, rather than seeking to advance the spatial diffusion para- 
digm within the discipline, has been to look for more powerful domestic tempo- 
ral processes that have shaped politics in the region. 

Although the correlations between space and location, on the one hand, and polit- 
ical outcomes, on the other hand, are powerful, what exactly is performing the 
heavy lifting in geographic explanations? In the Slovak case, it was the prospect for 
joining Western economic and security structures that created the impetus for dem- 
ocratic change. Geography, then, seems to be a reasonable proxy for the geopoliti- 
cal design of Western international institutional builders who desired Slovak 
membership in order to shore up Western Europe's eastern periphery. In the 
Kyrgyz case, would-be democrats had no such institution to which to refer. On the 
contrary, those pointing to friends in the region could only identify autocrats. 

These logics, however, have not been entirely convincing to students of com- 
parative politics. Instead, comparativists have sought greater clarity in causal 
chains linking space or place to political outcomes than has been provided by 
scholars to date. It is to these studies that we now turn. 

Geography as a proxy: for what? 

Even when rejecting the use of concepts and methods from geography, a number 
of authors working on post-communism have attempted to address the spatial 
turn. Judging by its frequent inclusion in multivariate models of the determinants 
of democracy and dictatorship in the post-communist region, political geography 
has been accepted within the subfield. The consensus, however, is that the few 
extant efforts to use the insights of political geography to account for variation in 
regime-type outcomes have been more suggestive than decisive. Comparativists 
have generally argued that the statistical evidence for spatial dependence is really 
tapping into other, deeper factors besides geography. 

84 Jeffrey Kopstein 

Kitschelt (2003), in particular, maintains that the neat geographically regres- 
sive pattern of development of the post-communist world is really a function of 
pre-existing patterns of modernization. The notion that the starting point for the 
post-communist countries was essentially the same, he argues, is mistaken. 
Instead Kitschelt identifies three different kinds of communism, each correspon- 
ding to different state traditions. "Bureaucratic communism," relying on a pre- 
existing state with high levels of bureaucratic rectitude, dominated East Germany 
and Czechoslovakia. "National accommodative communism," which attempted 
to reconcile communist rule to patterns of a highly mobilized civil society, was 
the model in Hungary and Poland. The third model, "patrimonial communism," 
established itself in Romania, Bulgaria, and presumably throughout the non- 
Baltic Soviet Union, where the communists, upon seizing power, confronted pre- 
bureaucratic state structures. Patterns of communist state-building in turn shaped 
both patterns of civil development and bureaucratic efficiency passed on to the 
post-communist democracies. In short, communism was forced to build states 
and manage societies with the raw material at hand and these states and societies 
bequeathed to the post-communist world much of the same bureaucratic and civic 
cultures of the pre-communist era. It is these kinds of causal chains that remain 
most appealing to students of comparative politics. 

Similarly, Darden and Grzymala-Busse (2006) also maintain that geography is 
primarily tapping into the modernization phenomenon and the determinants of 
both the mode of exit from communism and post-communist political change are 
more readily found in the formative nation-building experiences of particular 
political units across the continent. If a group became literate before communism, 
they maintain, it was far more likely to cast off the communist legacy and con- 
solidate democracy after 1989 than if it did not. Again, for Darden and Grzymala- 
Busse the long-term historical causal chains are the point where the mind rests. 
The key to a good explanation for most comparativists, then, is to look for criti- 
cal historical junctures within societies rather than identify contemporary or his- 
torical confining conditions in processes that occur between them. 

The most extensive statistical test to date of this debate has been performed 
by Pop-Eleches (2007). For the most part, he concurs with Kitschelt and 
Darden/Grzymala-Busse. Numerous model specifications and conceptualizations 
of dependent variables for democratic and non-democratic outcomes (Polity IV, 
Freedom House, and Voice and Accountability), show that historical legacies 
continue to predict democracy and autocracy well even when spatial factors are 
taken into account. Equally, however, geography cannot easily be eliminated as 
an independent explanatory factor in accounting for post-communist political 

If some comparativists maintain that geography is a proxy for historical lega- 
cies, others have argued that it is mostly an expression of the politics of EU 
enlargement. The strict regime of conditionality and monitoring imposed on the 
post-communist candidate states and the requirement that they pass the entire cor- 
pus of EU law into national legislation decisively influenced almost every aspect 
of politics in the region. In everything from minorities policy to the holding of free 

Geography and comparative politics 85 

and fair elections, the prospect of membership determined the course of events 
through 2008. Geography's statistical significance and substantive effect, so the 
argument runs, is actually an artifact of the EU's decision to admit countries geo- 
graphically contiguous with existing member states. Of course, this argument in 
no way contradicts the notion that geography drives events. It simply pinpoints 
geopolitics and trade interests as the underlying force for why location matters. 

Vachudova (2005) distinguishes between the EU's passive versus active lever- 
age in post-communist Europe. Immediately after 1989, the prospect for admis- 
sion did alter preferences in the region but not, Vachudova contends, in decisive 
ways. It was not until the decision was made in 1999 to begin negotiations that that 
the leverage of the West over the East moved from being passive to active and the 
regime of conditionality and monitoring really began to shape events. Cameron 
(2007) puts the date of active leverage much earlier, to the early 1990s, when the 
post-communist states began to sign Association Agreements with Brussels. These 
agreements in essence amounted to "holding pens" for countries while the member 
states decided upon whether and when to begin formal negotiation on member- 
ship. Both Vachudova and Cameron are correct in this respect. The EU has much 
more direct influence over Croatia and Turkey, as both actively negotiate for 
membership, but nevertheless retains an important voice even within Serbia, 
which has expressed interest in signing its own Association Agreement. Both 
authors, however, pitch their arguments in opposition to spatial explanations. 
Cameron even deploys spatial control variables in his main regression. 

Theoretically the EU could decide to admit countries that do not share borders 
at all with the EU and membership conditionality would still profoundly shape 
political outcomes. In this sense, geographic diffusion and EU conditionality are 
conceptually distinct phenomena. The fact remains, however, that the EU's deci- 
sions on where it will enlarge and which countries start down the road of nego- 
tiation are deeply political and this political logic is intimately related to 
geopolitics and trade policy. The discourse on Europe's borders and whether or 
not Turkey's negotiations should be drawn out or cancelled reflects deep divides 
over whether it is a good idea for a poor and non-European (read: Muslim) 
country to join the EU. In short, it is difficult to disentangle the logic of EU con- 
ditionality from the geopolitics of enlargement. 

In what is probably the most comprehensive treatment of the relationship of 
EU conditionality to the role of geography, Levitsky and Way (forthcoming) con- 
ceptualize the matter as one of "linkage" and "leverage." Linkage refers to the 
connections between countries that may occur through trade, investment, 
tourism, and the like. Leverage, on the other hand, refers to the power or influ- 
ence of international organizations over a target country that desires membership, 
approval, or resources from the organization. Although the authors acknowledge 
the leverage exercised by the EU over candidate states, they also argue that in the 
1990s geographical proximity to Western Europe promoted important linkages 
that weakened autocrats even in countries with little immediate prospect for 
membership, such as Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, and Serbia. "[I]n each of these 
cases, Western intervention significantly weakened autocratic incumbents and 

86 Jeffrey Kopstein 

strengthened democratic forces - leading to democratization in Croatia and 
Serbia and near democratization in Albania and Macedonia by 2005" (Levitsky 
and Way, forthcoming). This line of argumentation suggests that rather than geo- 
graphy being a proxy variable for EU membership, the reverse may in fact also 
be true: EU membership is actually a proxy variable for geography. Even with- 
out the straight) acket of membership conditionality, geography may influence 
outcomes by way of linkage rather than leverage. 

In fact, it may be the case that some version of "pure" geography may influence 
political outcomes independent of any linkage or leverage. The evidence from post- 
communist Europe suggests that people living in proximity to the West believe that 
their fate somehow matters more to Europe and Europeans than those further East. 
They think of themselves as Europeans and consider "European standards" as 
something worth respecting. Of course, this sense of Europeaness is historically 
constructed and reconstructed, yet the fact remains that it is easier to make 
European arguments in places closer to the entity that now calls itself Europe - the 
EU - than in locations that are far way and about which Europe cares little. This 
geography of affection and knowledge is difficult to measure but there can be little 
doubt that it has helped shape the post-communist political landscape. 

Geography, post-communism, and comparative politics 

The subfield of comparative politics may represent a hard case for sustaining the 
influence of spatial concepts and methods. What accounts for the reluctance of 
students of comparative politics and post-communism to advance the spatial par- 
adigm rather than attempting to refute it? It is certainly possible that it is a purely 
a matter of evidence. If the evidence sustained the assertion that spatial diffusion 
determined outcomes more consistently than did internal politics, political geog- 
raphy would be accepted as part of the mainstream of the field. Political geogra- 
phy remains marginal, so the argument runs, because it deserves to stay marginal. 

The evidence, however, that evidence matters in the development of the social 
sciences remains meager at best. Paradigms neither rise nor fall because of evi- 
dence. A much more likely candidate for explaining the continued marginaliza- 
tion of political geography within comparative politics is to be found in the 
specific history of comparative politics within North American political science. 
The field of political science, as it developed in the United States after World War 
II, divided into multiple subdiciplines. One of the most important disciplinary 
divides was that between international relations, which studies primarily war and 
trade between states, and comparative politics, which was originally set up to 
study the domestic politics of "foreign countries." This division of labor made a 
certain degree of sense, since the latter pursuit required deep immersion into 
exotic histories and frequently difficult foreign languages. Yet, it was probably 
equally silly to believe that patterns of war and trade could be explained without 
reference to domestic politics as it was to believe that the domestic politics of 
states unfolded as if they were not located in given locations, with particular 
neighbors, and specific physical geographies. 

Geography and comparative politics 87 

Of course, students of both subdisciplines quickly recognized this, but there 
quite understandably remained a disciplinary bias within each field against 
accepting methods that question its assumptions. All disciplines have conceits 
and the major conceit of comparative politics is that, at a minimum, mid-level 
generalizations and patterns can be gleaned by comparing the politics of two 
more states. Simple enough and probably true. But the comparative method 
depends on one basic assumption: unit homogeneity. If the politics of the units 
under observation are influencing each other, then the assumption is violated, the 
"experiment" is contaminated, no generalizations or patterns can be found, and 
the entire field of comparative politics is called into question. The methods of 
political geography, especially those involving statistics measuring spatial auto- 
correlation, were designed almost specifically to question the assumption of the 
independence of the units under observation, for the simple reason that they 
measure just how much the units do influence each other. Should we be surprised 
at the resistance to methods and concepts as mainstream modes of analysis when 
these methods and concepts threaten the very foundations of the field? This issue, 
of course, is more a matter of the sociology of inquiry than of inquiry itself but it 
probably better accounts for the place of geography in comparative politics than 
any adjudication of the evidence or model of normal science. 

Even with this resistance, political geography refuses to leave comparative pol- 
itics alone. Discussions of Galton's problem (which posits the difficulty in using 
cross-cultural data because of external dependencies), "regions" in world politics, 
and the role of "public space" in channeling political discourse represent but a 
few of myriad ways in which spatial thinking has infected the subfield. One sus- 
pects at some point that testing for spatial effects in cross-national research will 
become standard in the best journals, if for no other reason than it will help deci- 
pher some of the important puzzles in comparative politics. 

6 Retheorizing 

Towards a new 

kind of discipline 

global space in 

Harry F. Dahms 

As one of the blind spots in sociology, the neglect of space is both prominent and 
instructive. While time has played a comparatively central role during the disci- 
plinary history of sociology, space did not play as explicit and visible a role, nor 
did the category seem to be relevant for sociological research (Roy and Ahmed 
2001). Indeed, even a cursory review of the sociological literature, especially dur- 
ing the decades following World War II, reveals research interests and practices 
that did not provide much room for space and place - as systematic concepts or 
legitimate research concerns. 1 The area in sociology in which space played the 
most important role was urban sociology, whose origins date back to the 1920s 
and 1930s, and which experienced a rapid expansion during the 1970s and 
1980s. 2 Even though - or possibly, because - all sociologically relevant phe- 
nomena occur in space and time, for the vast majority of sociologists, space may 
have been too obvious a feature of human existence to warrant careful attention 
with regard to its potentially specific features and impact on social life. Since the 
implicitly presumed purpose of both theoretical and empirical research in sociol- 
ogy was the production of knowledge about conditions in all "civilized" and com- 
plex societies independently of, or rather, beyond space and time, concrete 
features that influence social forms in clearly delimited contexts were regarded as 
secondary (Dahms 2008). As a consequence, the history of sociology has been 
burdened by an odd paradox. 

On the one hand, the idea and especially the discipline of sociology could only 
emerge in the particular historical context that resulted from the continuous 
reconfiguration of social, political, and economic life necessitated by the emer- 
gence of a market economy during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth cen- 
turies in Western Europe and North America, including the formation of 
nation-state, the onset of the industrial revolution, and the emergence of the mod- 
ern labor movement. On the other hand, sociologists have been dedicated to iden- 
tifying general principles and "laws" of motion in society that were not meant to 
be limited to modern society alone. Even though concrete socio-historical con- 
texts served as the foil for arriving at insights about characteristic features of the 
genus modern society, most sociologists during the twentieth century, especially 
after World War II, applied a mind-set that did not distinguish explicitly between 
knowledge about society in general and knowledge about modern society as a 

Retheorizing global space 89 

specific form of social organization. Rather than acknowledging that sociology by 
default is the social science of modern-industrial-capitalist-democratic society, 
most sociologists were not willing to be sufficiently reflexive regarding the dis- 
cipline's specific spatial and temporal conditions of emergence to achieve clarity 
in this regard. 

For instance, many sociologists recognized and studied the sociologically rel- 
evant patterns that applied in more or less similar ways in all societies that had 
spawned sociology: France, Britain, Germany, and the United States, above all. 
Yet at the same time, they regarded as the main purpose of the discipline the pro- 
duction of knowledge relating to those patterns as relevant beyond the limitations 
of their contexts of origin. In order to put the resulting knowledge to good use, 
for the betterment of conditions that ranged from concrete circumstances in parti- 
cular societies, to "humankind," sociology presumably had to be oriented toward 
an understanding of the nature of society in general, not just modern society. In 
retrospect, what arose as modernization theory during the 1950s was driven by 
the conviction that there is a logic at work in all societies that, once understood 
and appreciated, would enable decision-makers and collective actors to work to 
insure that all societies on Earth would follow a predictable track toward pros- 
perity, security and peace that was modeled after the modern societies of Western 
Europe and North America. 

For the most part, however, the mind-set that produced modernization theory, 
along with closely related approaches, impeded consideration of the specificity 
and relative autonomy of socio-historical contexts, of space and time as socio- 
logically central categories that necessitate careful examination of how and to 
what degree what appeared as more or less disembodied patterns, principles or 
laws in fact were tied to the particularity of specific environments. Put differ- 
ently, the history of mainstream sociology represents a set of stories about how 
social research was inspired by the notion that the specificity of socio-historical 
contexts was ancillary to general principles that shaped, and continue to shape, 
the concrete form of those contexts. 3 Sociologists who were critical of main- 
stream approaches, on the other hand, contended that the discipline is both 
uniquely conducive to and responsible for devising and applying frameworks 
that enable social scientists to recognize the dynamic entwinement of general 
principles and the socio-historical specificity of concrete forms of social life. 
Indeed, the effort to differentiate clearly between general principles and concrete 
contexts impedes appreciation precisely of the kind of dynamic processes that 
made (and continue to make) possible modern society as an actually existing 
form of social organization. 

Two questions regarding the initial neglect of space in sociology are especially 
important. First, was this neglect a consequence of how the discipline's classics 
framed the systematic study of society, with regard to the agenda, responsibility, 
and tools of necessary and desirable social research? 4 Second, is the neglect of 
concrete environments, as they may influence, shape, and reinforce social rela- 
tions, forms of interaction, and modes of coexistence, indicative of a larger (yet 
latent) problem in the practice and orientation of sociology that must be spelled 

90 Harry Dahms 

out explicitly, as far as taking into consideration the multiplicity of dimensions of 
societal reality is concerned, including space? 

Space in classical social theory 

As far as the classics are concerned - especially Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and 
Simmel, but also Charlotte Perkins Gilman and W. E. B. DuBois - we must distin- 
guish between explicit consideration of space and spatial categories, and the role of 
space in the framing of their theories. As John Urry (2001 : 4-5) pointed out, there 
is a striking absence in classical theories of references both to space and to cate- 
gories that are sensitive to the potential linkages between space and social forms - 
with one exception. Georg Simmel conceptualized space as entailing meaning, in 
several ways: space is exclusive or unique; divided and "framed"; the site of social 
interactions; a determining factor for proximity between individuals (or lack 
thereof); and the opportunity for geographical mobility. 

To be sure, all the classical theories were compatible with recognizing the 
importance of space, and it should have been possible for sociologists in the 
twentieth century, and especially after World War II, to both recognize, and seize 
upon, that compatibility. For instance, in one obvious regard, the theories of Marx, 
Durkheim and Weber directly related to geographical as well as organizational 
space: in different ways, each was concerned with the fact that modern society 
(qua bourgeois society, capitalist economy, and nation-state) emerged in Western 
Europe, as a very specific and clearly delimited geohistorical space. 5 Implicitly, 
explicitly, or by default, they also were comparative social scientists: Marx lived 
in different countries, and he could not avoid being aware of the fact that social 
circumstances differed from place to place, from city to city, from country to 
country; Weber engaged in an expansive comparison of geographically based 
world religions; Durkheim grounded sociology in the distinction between pre- 
modern and modern societies, and relied on comparisons between modern soci- 
eties (e.g., between France and Germany, in his study of suicide). In addition, 
these classics were concerned with ongoing organizational changes as a central 
feature of modern society: Marx regarding the site of productive labor (from farms 
to mines and factories); Durkheim in terms of the accelerating differentiation of 
human labor in society, as manifest in institutions and organizations; Weber 
with regard to changes in organization, the emergence and transformation of 
business enterprise, the unstoppable spread of bureaucracy, and especially the 
sociological importance of the city (Isin 2006; Turner 1999: 214-5). 

We should keep in mind, though, that since efforts of the classics in different 
ways were directed at engendering and grounding rigorous analyses of the nature 
of social life in the modern age, it would not have been possible for them to 
address all relevant dimensions of social life, even if they would have tried to do 
so. 6 Thus, with an eye towards the history of sociology during the twentieth 
century, the important question is not so much whether the classics did justice to 
space, but whether, and to what degree, their theoretical designs were compatible 
with and conducive to consideration of the spatial dimension of social life. In an 

Retheorizing global space 9 1 

assessment of the influence of the discipline's founders on the ability and 
willingness of sociologists today to recognize space as a key category, however, 
we need to keep in mind the likelihood of there being a discrepancy between how 
each of the classics conceived of the promise and responsibility of sociology, and 
how later sociologists interpreted and applied the earlier frameworks. Since such 
a discrepancy is rather inevitable, the main issue is its nature and depth. The chal- 
lenge regarding assessments of how the classics dealt with space and place, then, 
pertains to the question of how to identify and interpret the efforts of the classics 
in the present context, and how adequate prevailing interpretations of their theo- 
ries during the twentieth century were in light of recent reassessments. 

The challenge of theorizing modern society 

With globalization providing one of the most important research challenges for 
social scientists today, certainties about well-established ways of reading Marx, 
Durkheim, Weber, Simmel and others, have begun to give way to reassessments 
of the current value of their contributions. If the kinds of reading and interpreta- 
tion that informed and oriented the disciplinary history of sociology during the 
twentieth century were based on flawed appropriation of the classics' contribu- 
tions, conceptions of the purpose of sociology since the classics should have been 
detrimental to realizing the discipline's promise. 7 In retrospect, it would appear 
that, especially after World War II, in the context of the Cold War, the majority of 
sociologists were less inclined to accept and apply the radical thrust underlying 
each and all of the classical theories, as imperative to the design and execution of 
social research. 8 In his most recent book, Charles Lemert (2007) described the 
continuing relevance of the classical theories as projects of "thinking the unthink- 
able." By contrast, most sociologists during the second half of the twentieth 
century did not read the classics as having been engaged in efforts to frame soci- 
ology in ways that require the willingness and ability of sociologists to "bend" per- 
spectives and mind-set regarding societal reality we all acquire through 
socialization, education, and social interaction. In different regards, each of the 
classical theorists conveyed the importance for sociologists to make the following 
distinction. In one regard, as members of society, we are both compelled and 
inclined to subscribe to perspectives on social life that are a precondition both for 
our ability to "function" in society as individuals, and for the possibility of a sta- 
ble social order. In another regard, for sociology as a social science to be an actual 
possibility, as sociologists we must be critically and rigorously reflexive regarding 
precisely those perspectives on social life as potential impediments to our ability 
to confront the actuality and underlying logic of societal reality. Paradoxically, 
however, after World War II, sociologists tended to assume that the victory of 
democracy over "totalitarianism" constituted a major break in the history of 
human societies. From that point on, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, modern 
Western industrialized societies would socialize and educate individuals to a 
growing extent in ways that were conducive to recognizing the reality of social life 
and one's own place within it. Consequently, it would no longer be required of 

92 Harry Dahms 

social scientists to make a determined effort to dissect preconceived and socially 
condoned notions about reality with the same rigor and to the same degree - as the 
necessary precondition for scrutinizing modern society, as each of the classical 
theorists had emphasized with regard to a particular dimension of social reality - 
in Lemert's (2007) language, as "thinking the unthinkable." 

For the present purpose, to illustrate the gap between predominant readings of 
the classics during the post- World War II era, and new ways of reading that have 
become possible under conditions of globalization, suffice it to suggest one alter- 
native mode of reading the classical contributions. If we start out from the cen- 
trality to their respective concerns of the concepts of alienation (Marx), anomie 
(Durkheim), and Protestant ethic (Weber), and rather than reading the three the- 
orists against each other, read them together, the following would be one possi- 
ble scenario regarding the constitutional logic of modern society. 

While economics started out as a discipline concerned primarily and affir- 
matively with the necessary preconditions for the successful pursuit of pros- 
perity, both at the individual and the national level, sociology emerged as the 
discipline that was concerned with the "price" society must pay, in order to 
enter and remain on the track of increasing prosperity. 9 In different ways, Marx, 
Durkheim, and Weber were concerned primarily with the kind of continuous 
societal transformations necessitated by the direct and indirect orientation of 
political, social, and especially legal institutions toward providing and main- 
taining an environment that is conducive to profit-making - i.e., a social order 
characterized by a high degree of stability. Within this interpretive framework, 
Marx was primarily concerned with the spread of the capitalist mode of pro- 
duction engendering processes of social, political, and cultural adaptation and 
organization that carry a destructive potential. In addition, they bring about 
qualitative changes in the nature of the relationship between individual and 
reality at all levels, especially regarding one's own self, others, nature, and the 
"species." Durkheim was concerned with the consequences resulting from the 
continuous differentiation of labor in society, for the nature of social relations, 
and the combined danger of individuals failing to maintain their place in the 
social environment, as values lost their strength, and the moral fabric of society 
eroded. Weber, finally, was concerned with the question of why modern capi- 
talism only emerged in the West, and how the reconstruction of Christianity as 
a consequence of the Reformation went hand in hand with economic advances 
and transformations that produced an entirely different societal reality, com- 
pared to the Middle Ages, triggering economically driven processes of ration- 
alization in all spheres of life that were increasingly detrimental to the 
meaningful interpretation of human existence. 

If we contrast these three theories (representing the plurality of classical theo- 
ries), as was common during much of the twentieth century, the primary question 
will be which of the theorists "was right," and which were not - and to what 
degree and in what regards. However, if we read these theories as complemen- 
tary, a different reading ensues that is highly compatible with, and indeed con- 
ducive to, considering the importance of space in today's world. In fact, recent 

Retheorizing global space 93 

attempts to stress and illustrate the importance of space thus appear as efforts to 
identify, as the charge of sociology, a type of inquiry that is characterized by con- 
tinuity with the classics' agendas and conceptions of sociology as a social 
science. The challenge, then, is to pinpoint those dimensions of social reality 
whose neglect would be detrimental to the possibility of systematic research 
relating to contemporary social life, and to endeavor to construct a theoretical 
foundation for social research that combines those dimensions. Space most cer- 
tainly would have to be one of those dimensions. 

A synchronized reading of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber would be conducive, 
for instance, to perspectives on modern society as a force-field whose primary 
imperative is the stabilization of social order in a context that perpetually pro- 
duces a socially destructive potential - with both the destructive potential and the 
stabilization of social order being constitutional features of modern society. Marx 
described the destructive potential in terms of alienation and commodity 
fetishism (followed in the writings of later theorists in the tradition he initiated, 
as reification, instrumental reason, and functionalist reason). By contrast, 
Durkheim was most concerned with anomie, and Weber with loss of meaning in 
what used to be framed in terms of the "iron cage." 10 In all of their theories, mod- 
ern society appears as a sort of "container" that must be maintained, reinforced, 
and protected, for the continuously growing, economically beneficial, albeit 
socially destructive potential that accompanies capital accumulation and techno- 
logical development to remain under control. The destructive potential, however, 
is an integral precondition for and consequence of a force-field that is in constant 
danger of collapse, and yet appears to be characterized by an unprecedented sta- 
bility, as the consequence of an exchange of energy that must be carefully main- 
tained. This stability is unprecedented both with regard to degree and kind of 
stability. On the one hand, there is a dynamic economic system that provides the 
energy that generates change in modern society, and that produces the resources 
that make modern society possible. On the other hand, politics, culture, legal 
system, and civil society adapt to increasingly dynamic economies in ways that 
provide a largely static shell. While economic processes constitute qualitative 
change, and are the cause of continuous political, legal, cultural, and social adap- 
tation, the latter produce the appearance of change, distract from economic 
processes as the actual origin of change in the modern world, and conceal the 
absence, in reality, of qualitative change in politics, culture, legal system, and 
civil society. 11 

The main difference between this reading of the classical theorists and the 
mode that influenced and shaped the history of sociology is that the latter appro- 
priation was inherently static, while the former is fundamentally dynamic, 12 In 
certain regards, it would be quite apt to interpret the efforts of poststructuralists, 
and postmodernism generally, as attempts to capture for the first time the kind of 
perspectives on modern society the classics were trying to engender, and which 
were far more intricate, as well as critical, than post-war sociologists were will- 
ing, or able, to recognize. In a sense, a certain strain of postmodernist, poststruc- 
turalist, and even postcolonial critiques of concepts of "the modern," then, would 

94 Harry Dahms 

have been attempts to make up for the flawed appropriations of the classics in 
mainstream sociology. Rather than Marx having been a "structuralist," Durkheim 
having been a "determinist," and Weber having been a "positivist," their frame- 
works were directed to a far greater extent at facilitating a kind of critical under- 
standing of social life that would have been comparable to the revolution that was 
occurring a century ago in theoretical physics. 13 

As an academic discipline, the history of sociology began at approximately the 
same time at which theoretical physics underwent a major revolution, in the form 
of Planck's quantum theory and Einstein's relativity theory. Yet most sociologists 
have worked with an image of theoretical physics that was tied to the universe of 
Copernicus and Newton. Very simply put, the difference between sociology as 
"inspired" by an image of physics modeled after Copernicus and Newton, and the 
kind of sociology that would have resulted from an orientation toward Planck and 
Einstein, is that the former is limited to the world of appearances, while the latter 
is driven by the determination to pursue the nature of reality as far and as deep as 
possible. My contention is that, even though disciplinary sociology emerged pre- 
cisely at the time when modern physics underwent its most radical transformation, 
during the twentieth century, the vast majority of sociologists worked with an 
image of science that had become anachronistic at the beginning of the century - 
theoretically speaking. Furthermore, if more sociologists had been aware of devel- 
opments in theoretical physics in the early twentieth century, they might have 
seized upon the opportunity to conceive of their discipline as having a systematic 
interest in distinguishing between surface appearances and underlying forces. 
Instead, mainstream sociologists appear to have dedicated their efforts at advanc- 
ing sociology as a project that endeavors to analyze and explain surface appear- 
ances, without a rigorous concept of underlying forces. 14 

Sociological deficits and the challenge of globalization 

As is true of all academic disciplines, the history of sociology can be told in 
terms of both its successes and its failures. As sociologists have labored to illu- 
minate conditions of human existence in the modern world, they also have 
emphasized certain dimensions of social life at the expense of others. Succinctly 
put, the official history of sociology as a discipline is, for the most part, about 
how modern society manifests itself at the surface - at the level of discernable 
groups, institutions, organizations, and processes. 15 Despite a continuous prolif- 
eration of approaches that are critical of the orientation toward surface manifes- 
tations of societal life, as a mainstream discipline, sociology to date has 
refrained from taking responsibility for scrutinizing the underlying forces that 
produce the surface appearances. Instead, within the mainstream, to the extent 
that the link between both levels is being acknowledged and addressed at all, it 
tends to happen in passing, mostly in theoretically oriented projects and the 
related literature. In empirical research, the notion of underlying forces is almost 
entirely absent. As a result, a culture has taken hold in professional sociology 
that treats, as a matter of course, the analytical challenge as the explication of 

Retheorizing global space 95 

surface phenomena with reference to other surface phenomena - thus generating 
a kind of redundancy that is at odds both with the nature of modern society (as 
outlined above) and with current problems and challenges endemic to the con- 
text of "globalization." 

Yet the efforts even of prominent sociologists who are critical of the disci- 
pline's core to engender a more reflexive disciplinary practice that would compel 
and enable sociologists to recognize illuminating globalization as a defining chal- 
lenge of the present time (for instance, as the culmination of the contradictory 
trends that have been shaping the modern age 16 ) so far have remained unsuccess- 
ful. Indeed, while the proliferation of approaches that point out problematic 
aspects of mainstream sociology may create the appearance of both the main- 
stream undergoing qualitative changes, the evidence is still inconclusive as to 
whether such indeed is occurring. The growing difficulties of representatives of 
mainstream approaches to deny types of social research that are critical of the 
mainstream a modicum of legitimacy are not necessarily, and certainly not auto- 
matically, indicative of the mainstream changing in profound and lasting ways. 

For instance, rather than participating in efforts to reformulate and reconstruct 
the promise and responsibility of sociology in and for the early twenty-first 
century, mainstream sociologists tend to resist opportunities to tackle the gulf 
between conceptions of the discipline that regard the tensions between surface 
appearances and underlying forces as central, and conceptions that purport that 
such distinctions are immaterial to sociology. Concordantly, while mainstream 
conceptions tend to regard the potential practical and policy-related irrelevance 
of sociology as a non-issue - as its relevance is purported to be in evidence, and 
measured, in the number of academic departments and research institutes - criti- 
cal conceptions are the expression of endeavors to insure the relevance of sociol- 
ogy in changing socio-historical contexts. Yet in light of difficulties to grasp the 
multifarious dimensions of "globalization," in particular, evidence keeps mount- 
ing that the proliferating contradictions of modern society are increasingly diffi- 
cult both to deny and to illuminate in ways that translate into effective public 
policies in terms of stated goals, along with qualitatively superior perspectives on 
current conditions more generally (Dahms 2005). While the prevalence of con- 
tradictions can be observed without effort, given that their consequences are ubiq- 
uitous at the level of surface appearances - it is not possible to explain them at 
that level also. 

Despite ongoing efforts, especially on the part of critical theorists, to stress and 
illustrate the need for sociologists to analyze tensions between surface appear- 
ances and underlying forces as key components of both the distinctive research 
agenda and the day-to-day business of sociology, most representatives of the dis- 
cipline conceive of their task as tracking social changes as they can be captured by 
means of quantitative methods, at high levels of accuracy. Within the division of 
labor in sociology, however, the investment of time and energy required to do jus- 
tice to the minutiae of concrete social change tends to be so intensive and absorb- 
ing that there is little room for constructive exchanges with those sociologists 
whose efforts are directed at determining and revealing the underlying forces that 

96 Harry Dahms 

generated and, for practical purposes, continue to determine and maintain the face 
of modern society. In turn, the theoretical discourse about modern society has 
become so multifaceted and intricate that commitment to keeping abreast of the 
continually expanding literature, and especially to advancing the discourse itself, 
without falling prey to the temptation of engaging in undue reductionism, effec- 
tively precludes opportunities to try to tackle the concreteness of social change. If 
we further consider the fact that professional responsibilities and demands keep 
expanding, it is practically impossible, for individual sociologists to engage in a 
level of theoretical sophistication required to confront adequately the challenge of 
tracking social change. 

Ultimately, to be sure, keeping up with the pace, scope, and depth of social 
change today should be the responsibility of the discipline of sociology as a 
whole, with the majority of sociologists cooperating in an agreed-upon and 
explicit collaborative effort. However, the proliferating fragmentation of 
research agendas, theories, and methodological approaches makes impossible 
the kind of research collaboration required to confront the complexity and con- 
tradictory nature of modern society (Gouldner 1985; Zhao 1993; Phillips 2001; 
Hand and Judkins 1999). As a consequence, in a manner that is similar to other 
social sciences, sociology has become self-referential with regard to issues, 
methods, and objectives, not just at the level of the discipline, and not even in 
terms of the divide between theory and empirical research, but within its pro- 
liferating subareas as well. Rather than illuminating the warped nature of mod- 
ern social life, sociology exemplifies warped modern life in its practice and 

Yet without an overarching discourse in sociology, about how the constitu- 
tional logic of modern society presents impediments to reformulating periodically 
the discipline's purpose and responsibilities among the social sciences, it will not 
be possible to confront the challenge of framing research relating to the phenom- 
enon of "globalization." In fact, in the absence of an overarching discourse 
between and across all the social sciences - and especially, without determined 
related efforts to assert the need, and to create opportunities, for such a discourse - 
addressing globalization in ways that demonstrates that and how each and all of 
the social sciences have been and will continue to be relevant for conditions of 
collective life on Earth, will become increasingly difficult to demonstrate. 

Towards a dynamic concept of spatial sociology 

It is in this specific context that systematic sociological interest in space would 
provide a unique venue for scrutinizing the link between surface appearances and 
underlying forces. Especially for critically oriented theoretical sociologists, the 
tension between both levels for decades has been too obvious to ignore. 17 One of 
the main hurdles for sociology to play the socially relevant and enlightening role 
that inspired the classics in one way or another is the widespread lack of commit- 
ment among sociologists to making sure that research efforts relate directly to 
stated objectives. It is common practice to frame research in ways meant to be 

Retheorizing global space 97 

practically relevant and conducive to social improvements, or to change that is 
grounded in shared values. In most instances, however, researchers accept from 
the outset that stated objectives serve as guideposts, and are not likely to be attain- 
able or attained, especially if they pertain to structural and systemic features of 
modern society. Ironically, it would not be particularly difficult to demonstrate 
that one prominent reason for sociologists conceding from the outset the ineffec- 
tiveness of sociological research is unwillingness to confront the actual workings 
of modern society, especially where it conflicts with widely accepted values and 
ways of reading the world. In effect, most sociologists appear to prefer avoiding 
the cognitive dissonance that inevitably will accompany endeavors to scrutinize 
the facade of modern society. Yet absent pertinent representations of the function- 
ing and constitutional logic of modern societies, it is impossible to explain both the 
varying degrees of practical irrelevance of social research and its conclusions. For 
sociologists to explain the relative lack of relevance of social research to date, as 
a necessary precondition for making social research more pertinent, would require 
looking beneath the surface of modern society. That most sociologists refrain from 
doing the latter, however, does diminish explanations of the relative irrelevance of 
social research, and how the irrelevance is a function of the design of modern 
society - a profound paradox indeed. 

If we were to conceive of space as the intersection between underlying forces 
and surface appearances, we would be in an advantageous situation, for two rea- 
sons. On the one hand, we would be able to avoid the trap of space functioning 
as an interpretive strategy that allows us to redefine well-established frames for 
sociological analysis, in the interest of opening up novel perspectives, without 
engendering truly innovative opportunities for meaningful and relevant research. 
The danger that accompanies efforts to outline potentially more productive 
research resulting from the introduction of a dimension of social reality that had 
been neglected up until now, such as space, is that doing so may create the 
appearance of novelty without generating truly new vistas. However, if we intro- 
duce space as the intersection between the underlying forces and surface appear- 
ances of social life in the age of globalization, the contradictory nature of the 
latter is included by default. Since willingness to confront contradictions is a cen- 
tral feature of globalization as a more pronounced extension of the constitutional 
logic of modern society, consideration of space would require that we thematize 
how concrete forms of life, as they manifest themselves in the physical world, in 
different kinds of structured and built environments, cannot be understood on 
their own terms, but as the focal point of forces at different levels of complexity 
in today's world (Urry 2003). 

When conceived and laid out along such lines, the spatial turn does indeed 
constitute a step toward a kind of sociology (and concurrent disciplinary prac- 
tice) that is driven by the determination to confront the complexity and contra- 
dictory nature of societal reality in the early twenty-first century, beyond the 
prevailing confines of power, inequality, and ideology, on grounds that point 
toward an updated rendering of Lemert's (2007) reference to the classics, as 
"thinking the unthinkable." It is quite apparent that sociology will not be able to 

98 Harry Dahms 

fulfill its intellectual, disciplinary, and moral responsibilities as long as its prac- 
titioners refuse to confront the obvious challenge: to recognize that sociologists 
must endeavor to confront the totality of societal life theoretically, methodolog- 
ically, and substantively. Economic sociology, comparative-historical sociol- 
ogy, political sociology, urban sociology, spatial sociology and so forth do not 
constitute clearly delineated areas of research, but instead are integral to the 
project of sociological research in a manner that must be confronted directly, 
rather than on the discipline's margins, by more or less recognized critics of 
mainstream approaches. 

The need to establish a new language and new criteria for identifying and com- 
municating the most urgent issues of our time is becoming increasingly apparent. 
Presently, the most common and most effective mode for framing these issues is 
in terms of globalism, globalization, and global studies. However, framing issues 
in those terms is problematic inasmuch as the emphasis is being placed on open- 
ness, opportunities, and our ability to construct the future in terms of our goals, 
values, and hopes. Yet it is becoming undeniable that the future will be character- 
ized less by openness and opportunities, but by limitations resulting from the fact 
that the Earth is a closed and finite system, e.g., in light of the continuous expan- 
sion of the world's population, the depletion of natural resources, accumulating 
waste, and impending energy problems, to name just the most obvious ones. 

Given its tools and orientation, especially when framed in terms of how the 
classics conceived of sociology as inherently critical regarding the actuality 
of social reality, the discipline is uniquely positioned to address related issues 
in a comprehensive manner, due to its foundational emphasis on the social, 
political, and cultural costs resulting from the pursuit of economic prosperity. 
Theoretically as well as methodologically, sociologists have worked on build- 
ing analytical frameworks designed to frame the study of the links between 
institutions, practices, processes, and trends. At the same time, however, the 
discipline of sociology has not succeeded at leaving an imprint on society that 
would enable institutions and collective actors to identify the implications 
resulting from the imperative that societies maintain and reconstitute order 
and stability inherent to social structure in its specificity - including espe- 
cially its spatial specificity, and how every member of society is a carrier and 
an embodiment of the latter - and to strive to recognize those patterns. As 
long as societies resist structural transformations that are a necessary precon- 
dition for actualizing to a greater extent, and over time, the power and possi- 
bility of prevailing norms and values, sociology is not in the position to 
enable individuals, groups, and nation-states to engage in progressively 
higher levels of agency. 

As alienation, anomie, and the Protestant ethic (as the concrete substance of the 
"casing as hard as steel") are social conditions that are at the very core of mod- 
ern society, individuals cannot actively overcome the limitations their prevalence 
imposes on efforts to construct meaningful life-histories and to make related 
choices. To the extent that concrete spaces channel individual and social agency, 
without individuals and many social scientists recognizing the link between both, 

Retheorizing global space 99 

efforts at agency often take the form of spatially sedimented, specific circum- 
stances transposed directly into individuals' and society's lives. Since alienation, 
anomie, and the Protestant ethic first and foremost are manifest in concrete prac- 
tices, relationships, and spaces, recognizing their prevalence will be necessary 
first steps for understanding the qualitative social changes occurring in the con- 
text of globalization (see Liggett and Perry 1995). As sociologists, one of our 
most important responsibilities may be our ability to conceive of, and to scruti- 
nize rigorously, how individual identities are reflections and representations of 
the socially constituted features of modern society. As long as we remain oblivi- 
ous to this fact, we re-enact normatively grounded practices we perceive as our 
very own, although they have been imprinted onto our selves in the socially 
embedded process of identity- formation, well before we become conscious of our 
own self. The link between self and society is becoming problematic to the same 
degree to which modern society itself is becoming problematic. As we perform 
our roles in concrete environments, it is virtually impossible to stay focused on 
the larger global context and its contradictory complexity whose paradoxical 
nature is more and more aggravated. 


1 For an early and notable exception, see the chapter on "Sociocultural Space," in 
Sorokin (1964: 97-157). 

2 For overviews, see Urry (2001). Important examples for sociologists working in cate- 
gories of space include especially Harvey (1973), Gottdiener (1985), Lefebvre (1991), 
and in combination with time, Giddens (1984) - to refer just to his most important work. 

3 In Dahms (2008), I have proposed that mainstream approaches start out from the 
assumption that it is possible to capture the contradictory, complex, and contingent 
nature of modern social life, without relying on 1) the concept of totality, 2) interdis- 
ciplinary research, 3) scrutiny regarding the link between society (as a concrete real- 
ity) and social science practice (theoretically, methodologically, and substantively), 
and 4) dialectical perspectives and tools as uniquely well-suited and necessary (though 
not necessarily sufficient) means tackle the dynamic nature of modern social life. 

4 My reference to the systematic study of society, rather than sociology, allows the 
inclusion of Marx in the following discussion of the classical social theorists. During 
much of the twentieth century, Marx was neither regarded as a key source for sociol- 
ogists, nor did his theoretical concerns influence efforts to conceive sociology as a 
social science until the late 1950s. (In part, this was due to the fact that Marx never 
saw himself or his work as related constructively to the project of sociology.) Even 
during the 1960s, sociologists who insisted that Marx's writings should be included in 
the canon of sociology, confined their reading of his contributions as a source for "con- 
flict theory" (see Dahrendorf 1959; Coser 1956), rather than as a rigorous critic of the 
force of alienation, commodity fetishism, and political economy in and to modern 
society, as in the critical theory of the Frankfurt School. Even C. Wright Mills 
regarded himself as a sociologist whose concerns were more influenced and inspired 
by Weber's writings than by those of Marx. It was not until the 1970s that sociologists 
began to regard Marx's theory as part of the discipline's foundation and canon, as has 
been reflected in countless sociology and social theory textbooks published since then. 

100 Harry Dahms 

5 For present purpose, I will limit my discussion of classical social theory to Marx, 
Durkheim, and Weber. As will become apparent, there may be pressing reasons for 
their centrality that, as of yet, have remained undeveloped, and which may account 
even more strongly for the willingness to rely on their contributions, as the basis of 
contemporary sociology. For a "geohistorical interpretation" of modernity that informs 
my own perspective, see Taylor (1999). 

6 It has been a bit of a cottage industry to point out all the different dimensions of social 
life the classics failed to recognize and scrutinize, such as nature, gender, and race. 
However, the more important question, especially in the present context, appears to be 
whether the classical contributions were compatible with and conducive to the study 
of those and other dimensions of modern social life. We must keep in mind that their 
efforts were directed a providing foundations for more effective analyses of a rapidly 
changing social environment, in ways that would translate into systematic frameworks 
that, in the case of Durkheim, Weber, and Simmel, were intended to engender sociol- 
ogy as a rigorous social science. In this sense, they were merely "beginnings" rather 
than authoritative canons, to be pursued, refined, reconstructed, and adapted in refer- 
ence to changing socio-historical contexts. 

7 My point is not that the classics successfully designed sociology, but that if their 
designs were misappropriated, the history of sociology may have been burdened by 
distorted perspectives on its purpose and responsibility. For reassessments of classics' 
theoretical agendas, see especially the essay included in Camic (1995). 

8 See especially Steinmetz's (2005) assessments of the implicit positivism of post-war 
sociology in the United States. 

9 Due at least in part to the neglect of Marx's contribution until the 1960s, this basic and 
constitutive theme of sociology as a social science has not been appreciated as fully as 
conditions of globalization make possible and necessary. 

10 The more precise translation of Weber's related phrase in the original of The 
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism should have been "casing as hard as 
steel" (Weber [1905] 2002: 121), or a comparable rendering. One of Weber's related 
intentions was to communicate that the confining nature of modern existence is nei- 
ther visible nor easily accessed. 

11 See, for instance, Dodgshon (1998), especially ch. 7 on the built environment as a 
source of inertia, and therein specifically the section, "Modern societies and the social 
construction of inertia" (pp. 142-8). 

12 For an attempt to draw out the inherently static orientation of postwar sociology, in the 
face of rapidly accelerating social change, see Philips and Johnson (2007). 

13 For "dynamic" readings of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, e.g. Postone (1993), Jones 
(2001), andKalberg (1994). 

14 It is not accidental that social scientists concerned with issues of space and time have 
noticed, though not developed fully, the link between Einstein's and Planck's respec- 
tive framings of the analysis of physical reality, and the sociological enterprise. See 
Urry (2000: 106, 119-23) and Harvey (2006: 121^1). 

15 For present purposes, and as an initial approximation, I am framing sociology as the 
social science of modern capitalist society; "modern" represents a descriptive category 
for societies that maintain order and stability within the force-field of "capitalism" and 
"democracy." Consequently, this category will continue to apply as long as the pro- 
jection of the reconciliation facts and norms plays a constitutive role in the form and 
nature of organizations, as well as the construction of individual identities. One of the 
advantages that goes hand in hand with this frame is that the distinction between 

Retheorizing global space 101 

modernity and postmodernity is unnecessary since, as will become apparent, modern 
society is a form of social organization that combines premodern, modern, and post- 
modern elements, in a manner that is inherently irreconcilable. See Schumpeter 
(1942), Bowles and Gintis (1986), Sayer (1991), Wood (1995), Prindle (2006), 
Delanty (2000). 

16 See the section entitled "The Culmination of Modern Trends: Globalization as Hyper- 
Alienation" in Dahms (2005). 

17 Which is not to say that scholars, who recognize the tensions between both levels, 
would also make attempts to theorize those tensions as related to the discrepancy 
between those levels. See Postone (2007). 

7 Sex and the modern city 

English studies and the spatial turn 

Pamela K. Gilbert 

But all the clocks in the city, 
Began to whir and chime: 
"O let not Time deceive you, 
You cannot conquer time." 

(W.H. Auden) 

Michel Foucault, in a brief essay published in 1984, announced that space, rather 
than time, was already emerging as a (perhaps the) primary category for critical 
analysis. 1 Time, the domain of narrative, had been the dominant trope and there- 
fore category of analysis in the teleologically haunted representations of Western 
modernity. But space, Foucault pointed out, had also lost its sacred character with 
Galileo, though we perhaps had not realized it; the present era, he thought, should 
undertake the continuing project of its demystification. This chapter will serve 
three purposes: it will offer a brief survey of influential trends in the spatial turn 
in literature in English and cultural studies; it will sketch a historical overview of 
narratives of gender and sexual possibility in relation to the concept of the city, 
especially in modernity; and finally, it will offer some brief exemplary readings 
of the way those narratives have played out in literature, film, and television in 
late modernity. 

Space in literary studies 

The movement among Foucauldian scholars, in the mid-1980s, to emphasize dis- 
cursive analysis and the "genealogy" of ideas corresponded with a linguistic turn 
in historical and geographical studies at the same time that literary and cultural 
studies were "thinking space" as a category of analysis. Thus the disciplines were 
brought closer in their concerns, though each retained its own focus and charac- 
teristic emphases. Geography was being reimagined as not simply about fixed, 
abstractable spatial rules, but as a discipline that would more decisively take in 
the social and imaginary elements of space. Even much earlier, geographers had 
produced careful (often Marxist) readings of space as related to relations of pro- 
duction, but much of it had concentrated on infrastructural rather than super- 
structural elements. 

Sex and the modern city 103 

The Marxist influence remained strong in literary studies of space in the 1980s, 
particularly through the foundational works of David Harvey and Henri Lefebvre. 
Their work built on the strength of materialist analysis while also bringing forth 
a more culturally focused analysis of different kinds of space and place, and their 
production. In other words, they departed from the old tradition of seeing space 
as a material and unchanging given which is then invested with meaning by 
human labor and imagination, to an understanding of it as dynamically produced 
and "always already" imbued with meaning. 

Edward Soja's Postmodern Geographies emphasized in 1989 that the idea 
of history as a way to construct stable meaning was specific to modernity; he 
declared that in postmodernity - specifically, the late twentieth century on - as 
history (time and narrative) is destabilized, it is space that comes to be the arena 
in which meaning is created. As narrative, with its emphasis on an understand- 
able causality, on the coherent and universal (usually white, Western male) 
subject, and on a historical teleology, came to seem increasingly suspect, many 
theorists turned away from time and toward space - spatial relations would reveal 
to us a complexity and materiality which was being hidden away by narrative. 

And as both Foucauldians and Marxists agree, human experience of space is 
always mediated by human relations with the world, material and discursive. Space 
is, then, not a Euclidean given; it is a materiality which we always experience both 
temporally and through a number of beliefs and practices. Most theorists posit two 
types of space superimposed on or coexisting with each other: physical space and 
social space (what Neil Smith calls relative space). Physical space encompasses 
both the natural or "given" and the built environment, and of course, as Smith 
points out, nature is itself produced, both ideologically and physically, through 
human interaction with the land, and through various scientific practices which seek 
to measure it. Place - the particularities of a named space experienced as unified, 
with clear boundaries, characteristics and a history - was often asserted as charged 
with meaning against the abstraction of modern space. Place could be claimed as 
home, as related to the construction of identity and values. From both the feminist 
and the Marxist sides, ideas of place were eventually critiqued - even attacked - as 
nostalgic mystifications of inequality and essentialism. 

Edward Said contributed to a large scholarship on "othered" geographic 
spaces, generally read by the West or metropole as lacking or differing from the 
space of civilization and modernity. Race-based and postcolonial readings of 
space based in part on Said's Orientalism have focused on the spatial construc- 
tion of otherness under modernity, both in the population and the landscape, on 
the strategies of mapping which have oppressed the colony, post-colony and so- 
called developing world. Said's work was foundational for scholars looking for 
ways to think geographic otherness historically, particularly because such other- 
ness is often positioned as outside of time - an unchanging landscape caught in a 
moment prior to modernity, bell hooks and Julia Kristeva have written powerfully 
on the association of women with that time - cyclical, ahistorical - and on the 
association of women with home as a place of refuge, and of origin. This place 
is often associated with the mother (and later, for Kristeva, the wife), and is 

104 Pamela K. Gilbert 

likewise seen as a refuge from history - this time positively as a place where iden- 
tity is absolute and protected. This positive representation, however, is often at 
the expense of the real women associated with it, just as is the representation of 
other geographies as either barbaric or quaint. 

But Doreen Massey has probably been the single most influential scholar in 
thought about space and gender, and of space-time in literary studies, a concept 
which recognizes that human understandings of space are also locked in tempo- 
ral experiences - even a space that is statically defined geographically is tempo- 
rally dynamic. As she notes, there is a tendency to regard time as "masculine, and 
space, being absence or lack, as feminine" (1994: 6). Massey notes that in insist- 
ing on "bounded" definitions of space or place, definitions defined against an 
Other, one might argue that, per object relations theory, the emphasis on "secu- 
rity of boundaries, the requirement for such a defensive and counterpositional 
definition of identity, is culturally masculine" (1994: 7). Massey argues against 
Harvey's separation of time and space in which Time connotes Becoming and 
Space, Being - this space is static, and becomes associated with the aesthetic 
mode for Harvey, which tends to the reactionary. Massey, however, critiqued this 
rejection as a characteristic overreaction - space and place could not be simply 
opposed, as there was no such thing as abstract empty space to begin with; there 
was always space-time, a field of contestatory interrelationships, out of which 
meanings were constantly constructed and renegotiated. Place(s) were part - and 
a potentially valuable, but by no means the only or ultimately important part - of 
those meanings (Massey 1994: 136-7). 

A principal issue for gender studies of space has been the spaces of public and 
private, a discussion that intersects with the much studied restriction of the fem- 
inine to the domestic sphere - a concept which is associated with specific spaces 
such as the middle-class home - and also studies of the liberal subject and its rela- 
tion to a public with influence on the political process, whether in critical oppo- 
sition to a state power (as in Habermas's analysis of eighteenth-century England) 
or in a more complex collaboration with it. Although public and private are con- 
ceptual issues (the private citizen versus the public "man," for example), these 
concepts are associated with particular spaces and spatial practices (the coffee 
house and the public political discussion of private persons, the public square and 
the mob, the home and the domestic sphere separated from politics). Because of 
individual places' intimate economic, political, and imaginary relations to other 
places that may be widely geographically separated, it is more helpful to think of 
places "not so much as bounded areas as open and porous networks of social rela- 
tions" (Massey 1994: 121). However, there is a tendency to think of both genders 
and places as sites of fixed identity, unchanging, with clear boundaries, and 
perhaps clear proprietary interests. 

The modern city and its literatures 

Urban space - produced out of historical moments of industrialization, popula- 
tion concentration, and the redistribution of space through an industrial capitalist 

Sex and the modern city 105 

logic - is considered particularly characteristic of modernity, with its rationaliza- 
tion, its abstraction, and its rigid demarcations of public and private, or privilege 
and abjection. Whether the city is read primarily as the site of discipline or resist- 
ance, of oppression or potential freedom, it is the urban space which is the site, 
par excellence, of literary and cultural analyses of space in Western modernity. 
The modern universal subject - that is to say, the liberal, implicitly male subject 
constructed through notions of liberty and possessive individualism, is inherently 
a "civil" subject, one defined by norms of civility and self-restraint as well as by 
freedoms to express a rather Romantic interiority. Such a subject requires a civil 
environment, one in which an implicit structural (legal, philosophical, though not 
economic) egalitarianism holds sway. In the 1970s, historical geographical analy- 
sis of inequality emerged as an important field within urban studies. In 1973, his- 
torians and literary scholars Herbert Dyos and Michael Wolff emphasized the 
primacy of the English Victorian city as a phenomenon in which modern patterns 
of urban life emerged, and a literature arose with them. Urbanization and indus- 
trialization, of course, also correlated to a rise in literacy and political activity; 
this emerging market, and efforts to exploit commercially and control it politi- 
cally and culturally, led to an unprecedented rise in literacy and rise in cheap pub- 
lications. These spatial constructs organized both the representation and the lived 
experience of gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, and other identity categories 
that defined one's relation in terms of the universal subject. 

Analyses of modern space tend to cluster around the planned city as the 
emblem of modernity; postmodern readings tend to emphasize the chaotic and 
anomic experience of that space (Frederic Jameson), or the possibilities of resist- 
ance to the centralizing, "striating" forces of modernity (Deleuze and Guattari 
1987). There is a fair amount of debate over whether this period can best be iden- 
tified as postmodernity or simply as late modernity. Certainly, globally, there has 
been a shift to late-capitalist as opposed to industrial capitalist organizations of the 
metropolitan cities, as the industrial city comes to be increasingly a developing- 
world phenomenon. Postcolonial analyses of space have focused on the image of 
the metropole as opposed to the colony or postcolonial space, and analyses of 
globalization have begun to focus on global flows of capital, labor, and informa- 
tion, as technologies reorganize space and a literature of exiles and migrants 
emerges, with characteristic tropes of nostalgia, alienation, and cultural hetero- 
geneity expressed in spatial terms. 

Having collapsed the boundaries now between what many think of as "real" 
and "imaginary" (or physical and semiotic) space, I should note that work in lit- 
erary and cultural studies has tended in two directions: one is concerned with 
"actual" spaces - the space of proper nouns, so to speak (the London of Defoe, 
the Paris of Zola, or even Dickens's fictional but highly specific Bleak House) - 
and one is more concerned with a "type" of space: the city, the factory, the home. 
Literary studies are interested not only in how literature reflects such under- 
standings of space - how they operate thematically and at the level of plot and 
setting - but also in how literature shapes the understanding of space, how it 
intervenes in culture to produce new understandings. 

106 Pamela K. Gilbert 

Franco Moretti has analyzed both novels and the conditions of their production 
to demonstrate how the dominant European novelistic fictions of the nineteenth 
century really emerged from three or four literary capitals and were circulated in 
such a way that Western literature was shaped by production from within a very 
few cultures. In turn, novels represented the geography of Western society in con- 
sistent ways - the space of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Gothic, for 
example, was often in the south or east of Europe; in non-modern, non-urban sites, 
the location of English realism tended to be the agricultural countryside and vil- 
lage. As Moretti notes, a "literary geography . . . may indicate the study of space 
in literature; or else, of literature in space" (1998: 3); he deals with both, and then 
their uneven interaction. Such a study allows one to find, for example, that of sixty 
Gothic texts coming from England, only one is set in England; the rest concentrate 
their settings in Italy and France until 1 800, then Germany, then, in 1 820, Scotland 
(1998: 16). Jane Austen's stories, however, concentrate in the southern half of 
England - no manufacturing North, no Celtic fringe (1998: 15). He reads the spa- 
tial distribution of such tales as consolidating and finding form for the new mode 
of national identity formation. With Scott's historical novel, Moretti argues, geog- 
raphy becomes the very basis of narrative form in the nineteenth century. He then 
turns to two great nineteenth-century Western European literary cities: London 
and Paris, both of which presented crises of legibility. Some genres, such as the 
English silver fork novel, divided the city (us, the West End, vs. them, the east and 
south and pretty much everything else). Others present the city as puzzle, such 
as Dickens, in Our Mutual Friend and Eugene Sue's feuilleton, The Mysteries 
of Paris, or fields of power, as in Flaubert's Sentimental Education. Paris has a 
unique location in the Latin Quarter which allows the city to be presented as an 
object of desire; for Moretti, that is unique about Paris in the nineteenth century. 
(Of course, such a statement is a provocation - and has been treated as such!) But 
Moretti's point, at least in part, that the mid-century English novel tends to assert 
its roots in realism, but then fictionalize its subject matter in such a way that the 
realities of class are transcended (1998: 131), is hard to refute. 

Moretti's eccentrically brilliant (and I use the spatial metaphor here deliber- 
ately) reading of literary production was followed by a more narratological man- 
ifesto, in which he proposes a history of genre through "maps, graphs and trees" 
in order to gain a perspective hitherto lacking. As he points out in this (non- 
geographical) study, however, geographical analysis of novels not only offers us 
the "extensive" understanding of diagramming spaces in relation to each other 
(Moretti gives us the example of several French novels in which the male suitors 
all live across the Seine from their female lovers, thus there is a spatial relation- 
ship between the characters that is consistent), but also the "intensive" under- 
standing of the particular space - not just any space across any river, but the 
Quartier Latin (Moretti 2005: 55-6). Moretti finally is more interested in the 
extensive relationship, as he is interested in a quantitative analysis of multiple 
novels. But as he says "Geometry signifies more than geography: but it seldom 
signifies by itself (2005: 56; his emphases). A pattern is repeated, but the pattern 
develops from, reflects, and sometimes creates geographical meaning. 

Sex and the modern city 107 

Historically in the West, the city has been the locus of culture and civilization, 
though also the locus of its corruptions (in this context, set against an agricultural 
rural idyll). It is not until late modernity - the Romantic period and later - that the 
wilderness has been widely understood as a positive or idealizable space in 
Western culture. The city here is less a particular place than the ancient figure of 
the city as a zone of civility and law, within which society was structured and from 
which it is ruled: the classical or medieval ideal. In late modernity, the rise of the 
industrial city and the dominance of cultures associated with it, has created both a 
distinctive literature (and readership) and also a distinctive literary understanding 
of urban space. It participates in older visions of the city, but also creates a new 
opposition to an idealized rural or small settlement (village) space, which often 
represents purity, authenticity, and morality. Thus, the modern city is particularly 
complicated, representing civility and freedom, but also the fall of human beings 
into relations more characteristic of commodity culture than an idealized pastoral 
simplicity. In 1974 (translated into English in 1984), Michel de Certeau showed 
how the practice of space, the experience of following itineraries within the urban 
space, was a process of reading, perhaps even of writing, and the city's urbanity is 
often portrayed as a complex text of which one either masters or finds over- 
whelming and illegible. The literature of the modern city and its public spaces "is 
replete with descriptions of boulevards and cafes, of fleeting, passing glances and 
of the cherished anonymity of the crowd" (Massey 1994: 233). 

Urbane pleasures 

This concept of "urbanity" still informs representations of the city, in literature, 
sociology, and planning. However, its shadow - the threat of the specifically 
urban predator, enabled by the density and anonymity that makes civic freedom 
uniquely possible - has been an important theme in representations of the city 
from about the late eighteenth century onward, and has occasioned moral panics 
sporadically since then. For women, dangers are encoded as victimization or 
prostitution, whereas the pleasures of the city, sexual or otherwise, are proffered 
through consumerist imagery. Masculine dangers are bodied forth either in the 
male as predator - sex criminal, hunter - or in the male as victim of seduction by 
prostitutes as consumer objects. When male sexual agency is celebrated, how- 
ever, the city is offered as a site of freedom through anonymity and consumption, 
again, often of prostitutes as consumer objects. 

Theories of the city which celebrate this mastery, and especially of the literary 
and artistic city, are often theories of flaneurie, derived from Benjaminian models, 
and developed through the image of the flaneur as of course male, then explicitly 
middle- or upper-class and urban, focusing on the gaze as the primary mode of 
intersection between flaneur and both others and consumer goods. The flaneur does 
not necessarily buy; he consumes through his eyes, and enjoys his capacity to be in, 
but not of, the crowd - or of the crowd only by his own volition. The intimacy of 
the crowd is without obligation; intimacy ultimately reinforces the flaneur s isola- 
tion. Classically, for example in Baudelaire, Benjamin's chief example, the flaneur 

108 Pamela K. Gilbert 

is enchanted by glimpses of anonymous women (see, for example, the poem 'A une 
passante' or "To a Woman Passer-by"). Deborah Epstein Nord has done much to 
elucidate the role of the flaneur in London. As she observes, the flaneur was 
assumed to be masculine (and heterosexual); the lounging, loitering woman either 
was, or risked being identified as, a prostitute (Nord 1995: 1 1). 

The ultimate flaneurs in London literature of the earlier nineteenth century 
were Tom and Jerry, in Pierce Egan's 1821 Life in London, or The Day and Night 
Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq. and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom in their 
Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis - a combination of journalistic and 
fantastic travelogue and picaresque focusing on extremes of urban London. For 
example, they pass from Almack's, the famous upper class ballroom and mar- 
riage market, to "All Max," a seedy bar in the East End populated by a racially 
mixed, boisterous crowd of dancers, prostitutes, and drinkers (Nord 1995: 30-2). 
Still, Nord recovers a few women who narrate the city. Her early nineteenth- 
century example, Flora Tristan, who wrote Promenades through the Streets of 
London, views prostitutes, as do her male predecessors. But as Nord points out, 
for Tristan, this cannot be expressed simply in terms of lust or pity, but must bear 
the burden of identification and fear of assimilation; as a woman, Tristan recog- 
nizes her likeness to the sexually exploited woman, and her vulnerability. It is 
only her male companions who protect her from insult or violence. Therefore the 
flaneuse does not experience urban space as freedom in the same way as it is rep- 
resented for male characters or authors. It is not until the 1880s that Nord identi- 
fies women for whom the streets of London represent a site of agency and 
freedom; and for these New Women, it was often through a sense of mission, as 
social workers, that they celebrated this sense, rather than simply as disengaged 
consumers of spectacle. As Massey observes, 

The spatial and social reorganization, and flourishing, of urban life was an 
essential condition for the birth of a new era. But that city was also gendered. 
Moreover, it was gendered in ways which relate directly to spatial organiza- 
tion. . . . This period of the mid-nineteenth century was a crucial one in the 
development of 'the separation of spheres' and the confinement of women, 
ideologically if not for all women in practice, to the 'private' sphere of the 
suburbs and the home . . . The public city which is celebrated in the enthusi- 
astic descriptions of the dawn of modernism was a city for men . . . The 
women who did go there were for male consumption. 

(Massey 1994: 233-4) 

Though the flaneur is, as I mentioned earlier, generally heterosexual, the loung- 
ing male gazing at others has the capacity to inspire fear, not only among vulner- 
able women, but of his capacity for homosexual contact. The association of 
homosexuality with both the promiscuous contact of the city and its anonymity - 
its privacy paradoxically located in its public nature - allow both for the visibility 
of alternative practices and fears of their invisibility "in plain sight" - that the 
coded behaviors and gestures of such men in public may mean that queer sex 

Sex and the modern city 109 

may be taking place in the next stall in the public men's room. Walt Whitman's 
(1819-92) "City of Orgies," from Leaves of Grass, is specific about the pleasures 
of Manhattan: "City of orgies, walks and joys," he apostrophizes, 

City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day make / Not the 
pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your/spectacles, repay me,/. . . / 
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and swift flash of eyes 
offering me love, / . . . / Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me. 

The "city of walks" offers itself to the flaneur, but ultimately, it is not the pleas- 
ure of spectacle that he seeks, but that of (however multiple or fleeting) intimacy. 
In 1929, Garcia Lorca would, walking by the East River, where he sees boys 
working and singing, and thinking of the poet who identified the city with sexual 
possibility for him, mirror Whitman's negatives and double them, superimposing 
Whitman's "virile beauty" over the "mire and death" of the industrial Bronx: 
"Not for one moment, beautiful old Walt Whitman, have I ceased to see your 
beard full of butterflies, nor your shoulders of corduroy worn down by the moon, 
nor your thighs of virginal Apollo, nor your voice like a column of ashes: ancient 
and lovely like mist," even though none of the boys stopped: "None of them 
wanted to be a cloud. None of them sought for ferns." 2 

Although queer sex has always been associated with the city in Western liter- 
ature, there are some cities more than others that are associated with such pleas- 
ures. The metropolis, always, as a large mixing ground for all tastes, is thought to 
provide such opportunities. But the colonial city, especially the Asian or north 
African city, is particularly associated in European literature with queer sex 
(Robert Aldrich mentions Saigon and Tangiers, at different historical moments), 
as are the historically charged premodern European cities of Venice and Athens. 
As Aldrich mentions, it is often authors (and filmmakers) who cast the city in its 
role; Paul Bowles and E.M. Forster have done much to give a European and 
North American population its ideas about the East (2007: 90). Not coinciden- 
tally, such cities are also associated with the sexual marketing of subaltern popu- 
lations. Whereas London's Soho and San Francisco's Castro are distinguishing 
features of those cities, they do not define the Western view of those cities in the 
way that Asian and African cities are defined for English-speakers through 
notions of erotic exoticism and sexual tourism. Nor is this phenomenon limited 
to Anglophone cities; Paris "has" the Marais, not the other way around. 

Dangerous liaisons 

Foucauldian scholars Thomas Osborne and Nikolas Rose describe the late modern 
liberal ideal of urban space as that of "virtuous immanence." The city is an arena 
for citizens to exercise their freedom to self-govern, for competing desires to assist 
in the emergence of the perfect society from subjects' experience of the city itself. 
But the freedom of urban life also led to another form of immanence: the "vice, 
rebellion, insubordination" of the mob and its constituents (1998: 3). This created 

110 Pamela K. Gilbert 

conflict thematized spatially in the open visible space of the modern city against the 
resistant, dark recesses of the premodern city the modern planner tried to rationally 
restructure. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White have argued that the nineteenth- 
century city in England is organized around the binaries of filth/cleanliness or 
impurity/purity and the fear of their transgression (1986: 136). This fear was articu- 
lated through the "body" of the city, which had to be scrutinized and controlled 
(Stallybrass and White 1986: 125-6). As I have argued elsewhere, this surveillance - 
equated with the very essence of civilization - was institutionalized through sani- 
tary inspection and had entered both literary and visual culture, the latter principally 
in the form of maps (Gilbert 2004). By mid-century, the "lower bodily strata" of 
both city and its inhabitants that Stallybrass and White describe being identified 
with both sewage and underclass behaviors was increasingly thematized as disease, 
vice, and anti-modernity. This trend is strong in both literary and non-literary dis- 
courses such as urban planning, legislative politics, evangelicalism, and medical 
writings. Doctors spoke of the incestuous practices of those who lived too close 
together in the city's slums; clergy spoke of the dark courts and tenements in pur- 
gatorial or infernal terms as sites of godlessness expressed in precocious and illicit 
sexual practices: prostitution, sexually active children, sodomy and promiscuity. 
Sexual transgression is the disorder that launches narratives, makes game of the 
public-private divide, and disrupts civic order. Sex, except when decorously repro- 
ductive and restrained within doors and within marriage, is positively uncivil. 

The association of the city with sexual license and perversion is an old one in 
Western culture, going back to the Old Testament and the literature of ancient 
Rome. In the USA, the image of the Utopian, gleaming, and specifically New 
World 'city upon a hill' from Matthew 5:14 was made famous in Puritan John 
Winthrop's famous 1630 New England sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity." 
It has been repeatedly invoked since then, mostly notably in recent decades in 
Ronald Reagan's speeches, to describe the perfectly civil, Utopian site of freedom 
and purity - indeed of citizens so pure that their very freedom only enhances their 
purity rather than allowing them occasions to stray from it. In 1974, Reagan 
quoted Winthrop and insisted that America had fulfilled the promise of the city 
of the hill: "We are not a sick society. . . . We are indeed, and we are today, the 
last best hope of man on earth." This image of godly and healthy American civil- 
ity is often set against the image of the "cities of the plains" defined specifically 
by sexual deviance and "cleansed" by God in a cataclysmic act of destruction. 

It is non-normative, non-reproductive, sexuality which is most closely associ- 
ated with disgust and boundary transgression. Sex shops and their products, for 
example, are regulated through zoning and obscenity laws, although many people 
do not find the possession of such products offensive. But for visceral horror that 
unites a large majority of the public, nothing competes with sex offenders. Over 
the last two decades of the twentieth century, a barrage of notification laws (often 
collectively referred to as Megan's laws) have aimed at making visible and lim- 
iting the mobility of sex offenders within high density areas, "mapping" the con- 
taminating threat posed by such individuals. By 1999, all 50 states of the USA 
had passed some such legislation (Filler 2004). 3 Such laws publicize the home 

Sex and the modern city 111 

addresses of sex offenders, and often require that such persons live in a certain 
spatial relationship to "vulnerable" sites - keeping them 1,000 or so feet from 
schools, churches, or day care centers. Several cities, because of the density of 
population and therefore proscribed sites, have been forced to move their sexual 
offenders in high concentrations to nearby rural areas or leave them homeless, 
prompting offenders to drop out of police surveillance programs. 4 These laws 
offer to neutralize the dangers of the urban landscape by making them carto- 
graphically visible, but this project reveals more about our representational rela- 
tionship to sex and urban space than it does about the management of sex crimes. 

Steve Macek notes that "panic over inner-city pathology and chaos has been struc- 
tured ... by a conservative discourse that . . . constructed the central city as an object 
of middle-class fear" (Macek 2006: p. xvii). As scholars such as Steve Macek, and 
Stallybrass and White have pointed out, since at least the nineteenth century, the 
poor of the urban core have been associated with and ultimately identified as moral 
and physical impurity. Physical filth has been culturally defined in the West as 
related to the abject materials of a transgressive physicality - "matter out of place" 
in Mary Douglas's phrase - including feces, semen and other bodily fluids. Moral 
filth has often related to proscribed sexual practices, and various urban horror stories 
attest to this, such as Jack the Ripper and murdered prostitutes in a Jewish East End 
slum of London. As Judith Walkowitz argues, "the prostitute was the quintessential 
female figure of the urban scene, a prime example of the paradox, cited by 
Stallybrass and White, that 'what is socially peripheral is so frequently symbolically 
central'" (1992: 21). "A logo of the divided city itself," the prostitutes were opposed 
to the "classical elite bodies of female civil statuary that graced the city squares" 
(Walkowitz 1992: 21, 22), and the Ripper was the extreme example of the more mild 
sexual dangers of being "spoken to" that middle-class girls risked going into Oxford 
Street or Picadilly unaccompanied (Walkowitz 1992: 52). 

Seth Koven follows Walkowitz's work to show that the outreach or social 
work performed by middle- and upper-class women and men in working- and 
lower-class areas was understood through narratives not only of sexual danger 
but of sexual opportunity and homosexuality, as well as deviant homosociality 
that might challenge the dominant orders. The East End, like St Giles in the West 
End at mid-century, was associated not only with racial otherness (the Jews of the 
East End, the Irish of Seven Dials, the Asians near the Docks), but with sexual oth- 
erness. These categories, of course, overlapped. As Walkowitz elaborates, femi- 
nist responses to the Ripper capitalized on women's vulnerability in the city, and 
thus unconsciously collaborated with repressive structures reinforcing women's 
exclusion from the equal enjoyment of public space and the pleasures of the city. 
It probably also contributed to the continued understanding of those pleasures as 
explicitly sexual today. 

Urban space has been defined in late modernity largely in terms of spatial proxim- 
ity of the polluting and the pure. Joyce Carol Oates has posed the problem this way: 

the City, an archetype of the human imagination that may well have existed 
for thousands of years . . . has absorbed into itself presumably opposed 

112 Pamela K. Gilbert 

images of the "sacred" and the "secular." ... A result of this fusion of polar 
symbols is that the contemporary City, as an expression of human ingenuity 
and, indeed, a material expression of civilization itself, must always be read 
as if it were Utopian (that is, "sacred") - and consequently a tragic disap- 
pointment, a species of hell. 


What is most pure is also most subject to defilement. The figure of the child-molester 
guarantees the coherence of sexuality and the law by being the impure object of 
fear, desire, and discipline. The most successful of the Law and Order (1990-pre- 
sent) television show franchise, the Special Victims Unit or SVU (1999-present), 
focuses on the commission of sex crimes. The public is fascinated by pedophiles, 
and they are particularly associated with the urban setting. 5 As opposed to the 
gothic machinations of the X-Files (1993-2002), which often played out in rural 
and remote locations, Americans' favorite crime stories are set in meticulously real- 
ized urban settings. Law and Order carefully sites its crimes in specific New York 
City settings, and the Crime Scene Investigation, or CSI (1999-present) franchise 
is associated with particular cities, e.g., CSI Miami (2001-present). The obsession 
with mapping and containment shown in zoning and offender notification laws pro- 
vides a way to make fears associated with modernity legible through narratives (and 
cartographies) of urban space. The SVU series is shot in New York on location, and 
emphasizes local color. New York City mayors Rudy Guiliani and Michael 
Bloomberg have both appeared on the show, blurring the lines between fiction and 
reality, and underscoring the city's dangerousness, as well as the mayors' commit- 
ment to civic order. In 2004, a road leading to the Chelsea Piers site where the series 
is mostly filmed was renamed "Law & Order Way." Clearly the pleasures of the 
series are linked to the pleasures and dangers of the city. 

This formulation, of course, is not specific to America in the late twentieth 
century - Fritz Lang's 1931 film M (a more complex portrayal of the child-killer 
as the ultimate danger of urban space) associates him with the underside of Berlin, 
and initially it seems that all the forces that pursue him, even the other criminals 
(who are after him because the police attention to the city is making it too hot to 
hold them), become a policing force. As Edward Dimendberg points out, when the 
criminals meet to discuss their plan, the map enters the mise en scene as a power- 
ful symbol of visibility and rationality. But the criminals and terrified citizens alike 
are also the force of the mob, and the fable of a rational city of light against a force 
of darkness is undercut by the complexity of Lang's portrayal. Overhead shots of 
the city streets at night offer a fantasy of visibility, but the most frightening scenes 
play out in generic dark basements and alleyways, where visibility is limited. Lang 
reflects back to the viewer his or her own frustrated desire to see and control; at 
the end the trapped criminal tells the mob/jury they cannot understand what it is 
like to be him, and Lang dramatizes the impossibility of this knowledge, of the 
fantasy of the knowable city and the knowable self. Dimendberg notes that the 
murderer, Beckert, is fascinated with consumer goods - he is often seen staring 
into store windows. He is the very type of the flaneur who consumes females as 
he consumes toys; the sex-criminal is the flaneur turned vicious, who consumes 

Sex and the modern city 113 

their actual lives rather than their appearance as an aesthetic experience. However, 
the figure of the prostitute always mediates these two possibilities: the woman on 
display, for consumption, and the woman consumed, destroyed. The woman who 
is sold is always already "ruined," a vampiric figure or living death allowed or 
doomed to wander for a while, but already marked for destruction. 

The city is particularly associated with women's seduction into prostitution. 
Nineteenth-century British artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting 
Found (which he began in 1853, and continued to work on for almost three 
decades) shows the country girl in her prostitute's finery, groveling before her 
abandoned beau in his laborer's smock, as he discovers her in a visit to the city 
of London. Rossetti describes it: 

The picture represents a London street at dawn, with the lamps still lighted 
along a bridge that forms the distant background. A drover has left his cart 
standing in the middle of the road (in which, i.e. the cart, stands baa-ing a calf 
tied on its way to market), and has run a little way after a girl who has passed 
him, wandering in the streets. He had just come up with her and she, recogniz- 
ing him, has sunk under her shame upon her knees, against the wall of a raised 
churchyard in the foreground, while he stands holding her hands as he seized 
them, half in bewilderment and half guarding her from doing herself a hurt. 

(Cited in Nochlin 1978: 139) 

The girl is assimilated to the street, the gutter, and death (the churchyard which 
Rossetti's sketches indicate he intended for the area by the wall); the laborer stands 
framed by the sky, bringing his own cattle to market (bound and helpless in the 
cart). The lamb, symbol of gentleness, helpless immaturity, and Christian sacri- 
fice, is to be cared for by the shepherd, but lambs are also sold; the city is where 
the gentle shepherd enters the logic of the marketplace, and where domestic inno- 
cence is corrupted out of doors'. The bridge is over the Thames, and the stereo- 
typical end of fallen women was suicide by drowning - as can be seen in the third 
panel of the famous 1858 Augustus Egg triptych, Past and Present, in which a 
fallen woman ends her story homeless under a bridge in London (under a "Found 
Drowned" poster), contemplating the water as she holds her illegitimate child. 

"Jenny," Rossetti's poem on the topic of prostitution, also takes as its topic the 
familiar story of the innocent country girl who comes to the city, not knowing 
what it may be, and falls: 

Jenny, you know the city now. 
A child can tell the tale there, how 
Some things which are not yet enroll'd 
In market-lists are bought and sold 
. . . And market-night in the Haymarket. 
Our learned London children know, 
Poor Jenny, all your mirth and woe; 
Have seen your lifted silken skirt 
Advertize dainties through the dirt; 

114 Pamela K. Gilbert 

He associates her ruin with a specific geographic site (the Haymarket, a portion 
of the theater district associated with prostitution in this period), and with the 
"market" and the mid-century development of advertizing. He muses that there is 
no point in speaking to her on this matter, for her mind is already destroyed, iden- 
tical with the sewage-defiled drains of the city, and therefore too polluted to hold 
an idea clearly: "For is there hue or shape defm'd/In Jenny's desecrated mind,/ 
Where all contagious currents meet,/A lethe of the middle street?" The body of 
the ruined woman becomes the polluted streets of the city - her presence in this 
public space, outside of the domestic sphere, means that she is assimilated to the 
dark side of the urban itself. The confusion of night and day, the darkness, and 
the inability to discern "hue or shape" identifies Jenny's mind with the abject 
city: obscure, dangerous, unknowable. 

Rossetti selects the Haymarket because it was associated with prostitution. But 
the history of the neighborhood, which contributes to its present status, is also ger- 
mane; after all, Rossetti could have placed Jenny in any of the many (and there 
were indeed many) locations known for prostitution. The Haymarket - historically 
called so because it was the site where farmers brought hay to market thrice 
weekly - also formed a liminal space between the privileged site of the late 
Renaissance court (St James) and the more rural St Martin's in the Fields. The 
location of the court transformed this area, making it a meeting point for people of 
different classes, a theatrical area with an opera house (but also an area known for 
freak shows in the early eighteenth century), and therefore a gathering place 
for performers, their patrons, and their hangers-on. It was also a gathering place 
for foreigners. Wealth and poverty, local and international, commingled in the 
Haymarket. In 1830, the market became a traffic problem, as the Haymarket area 
was increasingly urbanized, and so the farmers' market was moved. The area was 
transformed entirely into a residential and entertainment district. But the theme of 
the farmer coming to market his wares and the farm girl coming to be marketed 
herself ties the urban location of the Haymarket in "Jenny" to the apparently more 
peripheral location in Found. The resonance of the (for Rossetti) exploitative rela- 
tion between urban and rural, between the wealthy west side and the rural maiden 
with no capital but her own body echoes in his emphasis on the theater district as 
an area wherein one still brings one's wares to market on a Saturday night. The 
Haymarket was between St James Parish and St Giles - often invoked as short- 
hand for the extremes of wealth and poverty in close proximity in London. The 
two parishes both began as rural leper colonies, and the founding of St James' 
Palace lifted one to wealth and status as the city grew to encompass both parishes. 
St Giles, on the far side of the theater district from St James, became a byword for 
criminality and disease, the worst slum in the West End. The archetypical trajec- 
tory of a fallen woman might well be traced from the country to London - and 
within London, as she aged or became ill, from St James to St Giles. 

But what of the woman who successfully sells her sexuality? Dreiser's Carrie 
Meeber (Sister Carrie, 1900) is seduced by a salesman she meets on the train on 
the way to Chicago from small-town Wisconsin; next, her liaison with the banker 
Hurst takes her to New York and Montreal, where he descends to the depths of 

Sex and the modern city 115 

the urban experience and she ascends to the heights of the stage. The consumer 
desire that she manifests in her encounter with the new experience of the urban 
department store early in the novel is represented by Dreiser as in some sense a 
positive force - it gives shape to a desire for a larger, more perfect existence 
which is linked to Carrie's artistry. It is beauty which the city offers her, and 
finally, that offering is her own beauty. 

Carrie passed along the busy aisles, much affected by the remarkable dis- 
plays of trinkets, dress goods, stationery, and jewelry. . . . The dainty slip- 
pers and stockings, the delicately frilled skirts and petticoats, the laces, 
ribbons, hair-combs, purses, all touched her with individual desire. . . . She 
realised in a dim way how much the city held - wealth, fashion, ease - 
every adornment for women, and she longed for dress and beauty with a 
whole heart. 

This kind of "successful" exploitation of sexual possibility, however, is figured 
entirely in terms of consumer desire. There is never any evidence that Dreiser's 
Carrie has sexual desire for any of the men who court her. She desires consumer 
goods, and she desires to become one herself - an object of display on the stage. 
Carrie enters the world of luxury as much as a commodity as a consumer; she 
consumes in part so she can become a more perfect commodity. Consumer, vic- 
tim, or agent, such women figure largely as femmes fatales in narratives of the 
city; either they can be rescued and redeemed, or they draw their hapless male 
victims - often unintentionally - to their own demise, as Hurst ends his days in 
the landscape of urban Gothic, an alcoholic wreck. 

The pleasures of the city for women are often associated with consumer desire, 
and sexuality plays out through those metaphors. The dangers are associated with 
sexual corruption, exploitation, and violence. When women enter the market, bad 
things happen to them; when men enter the market, it is a site of opportunity and 
pleasure. For men, the city is presented more often as a site of freedom to con- 
sume women, but also as a site of release from traditional sexual roles - perver- 
sion as opportunity. Thus the city's dangers are part of its pleasures; the abject 
sites of noir are presented as touristic sites to be consumed themselves. The dan- 
gers are figured as moral and health related - less as exploitation than corruption. 
In the works which reverse this dynamic, and position women as empowered to 
enjoy the pleasures of the city, sexual and otherwise, the sites of abjection tend to 
be purged; the city becomes an amusement park in which slums, sites of racial 
otherness, or areas of industrial ugliness or urban waste space do not figure. 

In the late twentieth century, even though the urban space continues to be fraught 
with sexual dangers, especially for women, it is also the site of new freedoms. New 
genres have arisen to chart these so-called "postfeminist" stories. The television 
show Sex and the City (1998-2004) modifies its celebration of sexual freedom for 
its four characters by ultimately encompassing their sexual quests within traditional 
narratives of heterosexual monogamy and romantic love. For all that, its many years 
of exploration of sexual themes including fetishism, homosexuality, promiscuity, 

116 Pamela K. Gilbert 

and celebration of possible female pleasure in those "transgressive" acts maps a 
city of pleasurable possibility and sexual agency as specific as the city of sexual 
danger mapped by SVU, even if it presents those pleasures in the same consumerist 
terms as those nineteenth-century narratives alternatively excoriated and chroni- 
cled them. The official website for Sex and the City offers an interactive map of 
Manhattan - "50 memorable Manhattan locations" - based on particular episodes 
and organized thematically; there is a geography of shopping, romance, hotspots, 
landmarks, and "awkward" (designating embarrassing events in the characters' 
adventures). It is to be noted that the map cuts off on the north side in mid-Central 
Park. Harlem does not exist. This pleasurable city is, with few exceptions, the site 
of whiteness and affluence; even Miranda's exile to Brooklyn upon her marriage 
(close to the end of the series), seen as a kind of suburban site of loss of freedom 
and accession to adult responsibility, parenthood and monogamy, does not evoke 
class or ethnic diversity. This "City" is purged of sexual danger through the visual 
erasure of the urban landscape associated with noir. We never see basements, 
alleys, or urban filth in Sex and the City, and night scenes are always vibrantly lit. 
The most transgressive character, Samantha, is a momentary exception, as she is 
seen in a loft in a "transitional" or gentrifying area - the meatpacking district - 
which puts her at odds with the black and Latina transvestite prostitutes who clus- 
ter outside her window as she tries to sleep. But the scene of their confrontation is 
played for laughs and resolved with a cocktail party - there is no real threat of vio- 
lence. We never see this site again in the series, and it is never presented in noir 
terms - as gritty, dirty, or truly dangerous. 

Still the iconic sequence in the opening credits in the 1998 season implies oth- 
erwise, as it plays knowingly with traditional urban tropes of sexual vulnerability 
and objectification: Carrie walks through the streets in a fluffy white tutu; we see, 
as from her point of view, iconic buildings (the Chrysler building, for example), 
city streets, and blue skies. She is enjoying the visual pleasures of the city, and 
simultaneously enjoying the fantasy of ballerina-like performance and perhaps, 
purity. Suddenly a bus bearing her image drives by in the dress she first wears to 
bed the series' elusive male romantic lead Big ("Carrie Bradshaw knows good sex," 
reads the logo), and the bus splashes her pristine skirt with dirty water from the gut- 
ter, stopping her euphoric progress in its tracks. All the elements are there - the 
freedom, the pleasure, the consumer items (the dress), and the danger of contam- 
ination from sexuality, figured as the dirt of the streets, just as it is in nineteenth- 
century representations. But the new element is that the woman seeks sex, rather 
than simply being sought. Sex, here, is both that which offers and defiles freedom 
and pleasure, with the doubling of the woman as subject (Carrie, the viewer or 
flaneuse, in a virginal tutu) and object (Carrie in a sexy dress on the side of a bus). 
There is perhaps also some reference here to the episode in which Carrie stands 
with her friends and is distressed as they all see the same image on the side of a 
bus, but with sexually explicit graffiti inscribed on it. Once offered for public 
consumption, the sexual woman no longer controls her body. 

If, as Moretti suggests, every genre requires a particular space, without which 
its existence is impossible, its story cannot be told, then it is probably safe to say 

Sex and the modern city 117 

that the story of women's sexual as urban consumers cannot be told in the Gothic 
or gritty realist space of urban narrative as constructed in Dickens or Gissing. 
Unlike, say, Arthur Symons's typical narrator, who is a connoisseur of street- 
walkers and aestheticized the particular beauties of London poverty, 6 Carrie 
Meeber's success consists of being lifted out of the sites of poverty and not being 
exposed to them again. Dreiser's realism requires both that we see the sordid city 
and see that Carrie's desire is to escape it. Bridget Jones (of the film and popular 
novel by Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones s Diary), the women of Sex and the City, 
and other "chick-lit" characters cannot be imagined at any point in their trajec- 
tory within a slum setting - the heterosexual pleasures of the city are generally 
merely sordid or comic when taken by women in poverty and only tragic in sites 
figured as dangerous. Bridget could no more live out her narrative in West Ham 
than Samantha can be imagined in East Harlem. On the other hand, the noir space 
of the city as represented in late nineteenth-century realist narrative and in film 
becomes the location of sexual victimization and (sometimes) queer pleasures. 
These spaces, of course, coexist and overlap - the brightly lit consumer space and 
superstructure of shops and highrises and the industrial space of production and 
infrastructure (warehouses, docks and alleys) require each other's existence in 
order to exist themselves. But once sex enters the narrative, they cannot be 
acknowledged in the same plot except as the tragic upheaval of the repressed into 
the space of civility - Sister Carrie or SVU or American Psycho. 

An exception is queer pleasure, sometimes related to the marginality of its 
spaces. As many scholars have observed, male homosexuality is often associated 
with the abject spaces of both the body and the built environment: public toilets, 
alleyways. Although sociologist Laud Humphreys's famous "tea-room trade" 
study (1970) positions such spaces as sites of community, recognition (less of the 
person than of desire), and pleasure, part of their pleasure is their danger, both of 
discovery and of potential exploitation (and now, many years later, of disease). 
But this is less frequent in representations of women as agents of sexual action 
than in those of men (The L Word is homo Sex and the City in LA), whereas writ- 
ers like John Rechy (City of Night) enter a long history of representations of male 
homosexuality and prostitution in urban space. Though these are rarely found in 
mainstream or canonical novels before the late twentieth century, the tradition 
considerably antedates what we identify as belles-lettres. Morris Kaplan quotes 
The Yokel s Preceptor, a London guidebook from the 1 850s, that warned the rural 
visitor of the dangers of 

these monsters in the shape of men, commonly designated margeries, poofs, 
etc., of late years, in the great Metropolis, renders it necessary for the safety 
of the public that they should be made known. . . . Will the reader credit it, 
but such is nevertheless the fact, that these monsters actually walk the streets 
the same as whores, looking out for a chance! 

Such "monsters" could be found by the diligent reader in many places; the book 
specifies "the Strand, the Quadrant, Holborn, Charing Cross, Fleet Street, and 

118 Pamela K. Gilbert 

St. Martin's Court," and identifies the nineteenth-century equivalent of toe-tapping 
in an airport restroom: "They generally congregate around the picture shops, and 
are to be known by their effeminate air, their fashionable dress. When they see what 
they imagine to be a chance, they place their fingers in a peculiar manner under- 
neath the tails of their coats, and wag them about - their method of giving the 
office" (120-1, cited in Kaplan 1999). An 1881 British erotic novel, Confessions of 
a Mary-Ann, places its protagonist picking up men in Piccadilly, near Cleveland 
Street, the site of the famous telegraph boy prostitution scandal of 1889 (Kaplan 
1999: 283-9). In both examples, it is evident that the locations of the heterosexual 
sex trade and the homosexual one are overlapping or identical. Although this is not 
always or necessarily the case, there is an identification of certain zones as liminal 
or corrupt and associated with sexual commodification and deviance. 

Another exception is also associated with the marginal zone of the immigrant 
community, the uneasy place of the subject who comes to the city for a new life, 
but finds access to metropolitan identity complicated and often simply impossible. 
Although many such novels chart a story of disillusionment and loss, such as 
Upton Sinclair's 1906 The Jungle, in which Ukrainian immigrants seek a new life 
in Chicago, or V.S. Naipaul's (1967) The Mimic Men, whose Sikh subject ideal- 
izes London until he lives there, sometimes the metropolitan city is constructed as 
a site of freedom and possibility even after the disappointment and struggle of the 
new immigrant: this is particularly so for women or other subjects who are subal- 
tern in their own culture. Monica Ali's Brick Lane (2003) charts the life of 
Nasneen, who comes to the iconic Tower Hamlets location in London through an 
arranged marriage to a man much her senior. Although she comes to respect him, 
when he returns to the place he, after an adult lifetime in London, still thinks of as 
home, she refuses to leave London. While he idealizes East Pakistan/Bangladesh, 
she thinks of her sister, Hasina, who leaves the village only to be trapped and 
destroyed in the Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka, first by her violent marriage, 
and then by those who exploit her status as an unprotected woman - and then she 
thinks of her London-born daughters. Although she has found London difficult 
and hostile, she has also made significant bonds with other women and the 
younger generation - her children and her young lover (who is also disenchanted 
with London and reacts by turning to fundamentalism). Whereas Naipaul's disap- 
pointed protagonist muses, 

It is with cities as it is with sex. We seek the physical city and find only an 
agglomeration of private cells. In the city as nowhere else we are reminded 
that we are individuals, units. Yet the idea of the city remains; it is the god 
of the city that we pursue, in vain, 

Nazneen discovers sexual fulfillment in London with a lover who claims a 
Bengali identity, but stammers when he speaks Bengali, though not in English. 
While Hasina lives the nightmare cautionary tale of the naive woman who goes 
to the city and is destroyed, Nazneen is ultimately empowered by her painfully 
acquired mastery of the foreign language and culture of London. 7 

Sex and the modern city 119 

Ali shows the difficulty of the metropolis for the postcolonial subject, but also 
the ways in which some subjects, subalterns in their own community, can carve 
out forms of opportunity and identity unavailable to them in their place of origin. 
(Though it should be noted that a number of Tower Hamlets' residents found 
Ali's novel offensive, and threatened to burn it in public protest.) The Pakistani 
Muslim area of Brick Lane has been the setting of much literature and is syn- 
onymous with London Sylhet culture and food (the Brick Lane Curry Houses on 
2nd Ave in New York advertises that "the next best curry house is across the 
Atlantic"); in the late nineteenth century, it was Whitechapel Lane and synony- 
mous with Eastern European Jewry, and its mosque was then a synagogue. (In the 
early nineteenth century, the area was largely Irish; in the eighteenth, it was pop- 
ulated by Huguenot weavers.) Today, Brick Lane is a trendy tourist attraction, 
filled with Sylheti restaurants, coffee houses, nightclubs, and galleries, in the 
midst of a gentrifying but uneven area of London Muslims. The Lane is largely 
patronized by West-Enders and foreign tourists, but is claimed as a place of pride 
by the local community. 

Despite its changing history, it retains a certain "geometric" relation to wealthy 
West London - it is always a place where not-particularly -welcome immigrants 
congregate and practice their minority religion and culture, even today when it is 
in the heart of the city instead of at the margin (the east "Aldgate"). Thus it is a 
place that is very distinctive, though it is not distinctive in exactly the same way 
over time. (It remains to be seen whether now that the neighborhood has been so 
thoroughly absorbed into the heart of the city, it can still be a site of entry for oth- 
ered groups; it would seem that this point of entry is largely moving to the edges 
of the city - south of the river, to Brixton and Lambeth, for example.) Further, it 
is a place that could not exist outside of a great modern, and probably metropol- 
itan, city - a site that is or has been the center of empire (and thus, inevitably, of 
postcolonial imagination, desire, and resentment) and large enough to support the 
complex economic and cultural activity required when a large number of people 
from the same (often) rural areas with largely the same marketable (or unmar- 
ketable) skills and knowledge come at once to be absorbed into an alien "local" 
economy. Size does matter, and so does history - with all the prejudice and some- 
times violence that marks the immigrant's accession to participation in the met- 
ropolitan core, the history of similar shocks and the diversity of past participants 
in that process provide itineraries and strategies, both for the existing urban pop- 
ulation and the immigrant, to "make their way." Ali boldly claims a place for her 
novel as "the" immigrant novel - or at least the Sylheti novel - by identifying 
Nazneen's story as that of Brick Lane. 

City stories 

City of pleasure, of danger, where all things have a price. Such portrayals are 
somewhat geometric in Moretti's terms - the City is iconic for every modern 
Western city (London, NY, Paris) and the spatial relations are largely tied to 
simple oppositions (uptown, downtown, West End, East End, etc.). But they are 

120 Pamela K. Gilbert 

also what Moretti would call "intensive" in particular ways. Dickens uses the 
Thames in Our Mutual Friend to figure the circulation within the body of the city, 
and to mobilize the trope of rebirth, as he might have used the Seine in Paris. But 
he uses it as an emblem for pollution and defilement as only the Thames could be 
used - an estuary polluted by sewage that then re-entered the city twice daily with 
incoming tides, referring to geographic, engineering, and medical texts of the 
day. The Village can be a site of sexual freedoms for the four protagonists of Sex 
and the City in part because it is well known as a homosexual community - and 
therefore, anything the characters do is offset in its transgressiveness by its het- 
erosexual normativity. But the women do not settle down there; they move 
through but do not put down roots in this liminal space. 

The existence of metropolitan centers continue, as Moretti shows the European 
West did in the nineteenth century, to make possible the disproportionate pro- 
duction and thus control over representations of the urban and of geography gen- 
erally; it also remakes the possibilities of populations, spreading a few languages 
and cultural value systems worldwide, establishing itineraries for global migra- 
tion, imposing hegemonic genre and form on the local production of culture that 
attempts to speak to a broad audience. But it does so unevenly. The objects of this 
representation look back and write back, even if they perforce do so in the met- 
ropolitan tongue. Even if the tendency of metropolitan literatures in late modernity 
has been to reinforce high-modern understandings of space, narratives chart tem- 
poral-spatial paths that map, unmap, and remap our Brick Lanes, our Greenwich 
Villages, our West Ends, and Fifth Avenues. And as it ever has in modern litera- 
ture, sex disrupts the orderly progress of time and violates the decorum of spatial 
boundaries. Walt Whitman mused, 

ONCE I pass'd through a populous city, imprinting my brain, for future 
use, with its shows, architecture, customs, and traditions; 
Yet now, of all that city, I remember only a woman I casually met there, 
who detain'd me for love of me; 

This woman has been variously identified as a metaphor or a prostitute, female or 
male, mulatto or black or white, in New York or New Orleans. Sexual transgres- 
sion is the uncivil heart of modern life; that boundary line of which the trans- 
gression by a few guarantees the possibility of the many's civility. Finally, what 
remains of the city, its architecture and traditions? A site for the refusal or accept- 
ance, the attempt or restraint of a transgression: an idea, a poem, a passionate 
intersection of narrative and place, time and space. 


1 Foucault advanced this idea in 1967, in a lecture given in Berlin, but it was not pub- 
lished until 1984 in France, and appeared in Diacritics in English translation in 1986. 
In this, although he is so often perceived as a point of origin, he was explicitly doing 
homage to Bachelard; but for literary critics in the Anglophone world, our story begins 

Sex and the modern city 121 

more practically with Foucault (and spatially, it hardly matters, as it places our origin 
firmly - and with characteristic eccentricity - in France). 

2 'Ni un solo momento, viejo hermoso Walt Whitman, he dejado de ver tu barba llena de 
mariposas, ni tus hombros de pana gastados por la luna, ni tus muslos de Apolo 
virginal, ni tu voz como una columna de ceniza; anciano hermoso como la niebla . . . 
Pero ninguno se detenia, ninguno queria ser nube, ninguno buscaba los helechos'. 

3 For these figures and an extended discussion and their significance, see Filler (2004) 
for a detailed summary; see esp., pp. 1541-9. 

4 For a representative example, see Santiago and Olkon (2005). 

5 As many scholars have noted. See esp. Kincaid (1998). 

6 See Sipe (2004) for a full discussion of Symonds's representations of women in the city. 

7 It is perhaps inevitable that the trends of what has been called "chick lit" - Sex and the 
City, Bridget Jones 'Diary, etc. - would combine with the second-generation immigrant 
tale to celebrate the second-generation immigrant's enjoyment of sexual and personal 
possibility in the setting of the consumer city. The ill-fated novel, How Opal Mehta Got 
Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life (2005), by the young undergraduate Kaavya 
Viswanathan, was revealed to have been plagiarized from multiple sources, including 
various chick lit novels and a "young-adult" novel about growing up Indian-American. 
(It was subsequently withdrawn by the press.) What is notable is that these two genres 
presented a natural and easy path of generic hybridization, in part because young women 
have traditionally been portrayed as changing their home-grown mores and finding free- 
dom in the city, and the conflict between home control and urban freedom can be eas- 
ily dovetailed with the generational conflicts between immigrant and US (consumer, 
urban) culture, often figured as conflicts between modernity and premodern values. 

8 The geopolitics of historiography 
from Europe to the Americas 

Santa Arias 

As Geography without History seemeth a carkasse without motion, so History 
without Geography wandereth as a vagrant without a certain habitation. 

(John Smith 1624: 169) 

In the study of the (early) modern history of "the invention of America" 
(O'Gorman 1958) in the European imaginary, the complex relationship and 
dependency between history and geography is implied and manifested in multi- 
plicity of discourses that encompass political treatises, historical accounts, legal 
documents, biographies, and memoirs. 1 As John Smith underscored in 1624, 
history could only be viewed as the dynamic element that brings life to the terri- 
tory, while space provides "habitation" to what he considered the "vagrant" of 
history, as it seemed without its stage. In contemporary critical theory, historical 
space is no longer viewed within the Cartesian and absolute framework that 
defined most historical discourses of the Enlightenment. More than a scenario of 
events or the body in need of habitation, space clearly reconnects with history, 
politics, and culture as we rethink identity, ideas of empire, and society in eigh- 
teenth-century intellectual culture. Here I seek to explore the representation and 
perception of space in historical writing and to see how the study of space or spa- 
tiality helps track mobility, flux, and boundary redefinitions found in historical 
accounts and represented in the cartography of the Americas during the Age of 
the Enlightenment. When it comes to the understanding of the cultural meanings 
and the geopolitical processes that shaped this period, regardless of how modern 
historians view and use space in the twenty-first century, history and geography 
are interrelated fields that support the understanding of societies. Moreover, we 
can find how these intellectuals brought forward their cultural milieu imbued 
with ideas of progress, virtue, and reason to impose Western civilization on the 
colonized territories. Mapping became emblematic of encyclopedic knowledge as 
it gave order and coherence to the complexity of the physicality and humanity of 
the world. 2 

The principal issue that I will interrogate concerns the role that geographical 
knowledge played in the histories of America by the Scottish historian William 
Robertson (1721-93) and the Spanish Official Royal Cosmographer Juan 
Bautista Munoz (1745-99). Their work is representative of the historiography of 

The geopolitics of historiography 123 

this so-called "Age of Reason," when much of philosophical reflection on eman- 
cipation and equality still worked under the shadow of imperialism and paradox- 
ically justified domination. Beyond expeditionary accounts, the Americas were 
the subject of numerous political and philosophical histories by intellectuals who 
never crossed the Atlantic; however, these discourses inscribed the shape of 
the continent, its landscapes, environments, and indigenous populations in the 
European consciousness. They worked toward a more nuanced perspective by 
placing empirical information within the spectacle of current philosophical 
debates, reforms, and territorial imperatives. What role did geography play in his- 
torical writing and in the philosophical questions such as the nature of 
Amerindian societies and the rights to rule these territories? Why and how was 
the description of the land crucial for national histories and sovereignty? More 
importantly, how did the historiography of the Enlightenment provide a model to 
understand the role of space in the understanding of history? 

I approach these questions not as a historian or geographer, but as a scholar 
interested in how disciplinary boundaries became irrelevant when the issues at 
stake concern issues of identity, changing social contexts, and meaning. In the 
eighteenth century, these issues were deeply connected to territorial control and 
resistance. While I try to explain the place of geography in history, I will look at 
one instance within two different national traditions. Within the context of the 
European Enlightenment, comparative work certainly sharpens up our views of 
the cultural production of individual empires and how intellectually intercon- 
nected they were. While empirical representations of American territories, in the 
immense body of evidence that supported imperial aims in historical writing, 
influenced international polarities and helped the reconstruction of particular 
national identities, they also manifest intertextual relations and dependency that 
erased intellectual and physical borders. 

Understanding the divide 

When we look at the basic disciplinary and discursive differences between his- 
tory and geography, it is obvious that the divide is not that wide. The existence of 
the subfield of historical geography, and the fact that history has had a constant 
preoccupation with geography, demonstrate not only common historical origins 
of the disciplines, but the sustained influence of one on the other. As we see in 
the chapters in this volume, critical geographers put spatial production on the 
agenda of the humanities and social sciences by facilitating the understanding of 
space as a product of ideologies, contingent social forces, and history itself. In 
historical scholarship, beyond the limiting views of geography as a container or 
stage of events, considerations of space and spatiality have helped us visualize the 
impact of power structures, culture, and the market on nature, rural, and urban 
human spaces. 

The materialist view of space during the twentieth century served as the theo- 
retical axis to the history of spatial representations. Well-known critical geogra- 
phers such as David Harvey, Derek Gregory, and Edward Soja, among others, 

124 Santa Arias 

contribute to the understanding of the social production of space, its subjectivity 
and historical ontology. David Harvey has underscored how geography is 
grounded in history as social practices and processes create spaces (1984). 
Geographical knowledge can no longer be considered a container of life and 
nature; this absolutist perspective of space has been replaced by a relational one, 
where space depends on and it is intertwined with historical events, responds to 
political paradigm shifts, economic changes, and the cultural transformation of 
societies. Essential to interventions on the role of historical understanding in geo- 
graphical thought, Derek Gregory's critical geography called attention to 
Foucault's work on space, power, and knowledge to produce what he calls "the 
world as exhibition." Similarly, Edward Soja, in his critique of historicism, 
defined these processes as a "socio spatial dialectic"; for him, "space is a product 
of social translation, transformation, and experience" (1989: 80). His insertion of 
space in social theory makes historical and geographical materialism the medium 
to interpret and understand the relation between spatiality and being human. As 
he puts it: "New possibilities are being generated from this creative commingling, 
possibilities for a simultaneously historical and geographical materialism; a triple 
dialectic of space, time, and social being; a transformative re-theorization of the 
relations between history, geography and modernity" (1989: 12). 

Critical geographers have continued to erase disciplinary boundaries in order to 
reflect on the spatiality of social life. Their work could have not been possible with- 
out the influence of Michel Foucault and Henri Lefevbre, whose thought, as 
Edward Soja explains in this volume, resonates in the reflection of past and present 
spaces of history and material analysis. Lefebvre marked the anxieties of the rela- 
tionship between space and history in contemporary critical geography. For him, 
space was understandably political, ideological, and a strategic practice that "pro- 
pounds and presupposes it [space], in a dialectical interaction" (1991: 38). In The 
Production of Space, he drew attention to how every social space has its history and 
has become "an object of struggle itself (Elden 2004: 183). On the other hand, 
Foucault, going beyond his often quoted statements vindicating geography in the 
interview in Herodote (1984), underscores that space has to be related not only to 
the discussion of knowledge and power, but also to debates about war, medicine, 
and science in general. Foucault was interested in the geographers' understanding 
of power and the meaning of spatial knowledge as a form of science. 3 

The work of critical geographers presents a poststructuralist perspective of space 
that is central to the understanding of history and its genealogy. As stated by Fredric 
Jameson, "Why should landscape be any less dramatic than the event" (Jameson 
1991: 364). In this line of thought, if landscape - and its representation - must be 
considered an event, then the analysis on space and spatiality must be historical; 
after all, space and history are imbued in each other. It is not that geography is key 
to history, as many intellectuals underscored at different moments during the 
twentieth century, 4 any real understanding of societal history must consider contin- 
gencies that space and place bring to any analysis. 

As historians well understand, their field represents more than simple peri- 
odization; historical discourses are simultaneously political, social, cultural, 

The geopolitics of historiography 125 

geographical, and rhetorical. If we take a closer look at the transformation of the 
academic curriculum, with critical thinking as a major teaching objective in the 
humanities and social sciences, a recent tendency has been to work thematically 
with history, geography, and culture as interconnecting branches. History, with its 
many new subdisciplines, has always been geographical and is delving more and 
more into critical spatial relations, as the recent emphasis on transnational studies 
demonstrates. As expressed recently in a dialog by historians (' AHR conversation: 
on transnational studies' 2006), the shift in the discipline is more than a focus in 
comparative history. Scholars are situating historical work within larger frame- 
works (Seed on 'AHR conversation' 2006) and beyond the study of historical peri- 
ods or regions; transnational history concerns movement and circulation as a 
method that is defining the field (Hofmeyr on 'AHR conversation' 2006). 

Beyond the often-taught world history survey, or national and regional histo- 
ries, research and teaching in history calls for a strong consciousness of space and 
place where global, immigration, diasporic, and many other forms of history- 
making open the world of possibilities. New approaches show the influence of 
current debates, such as globalization, world-systems theory, border crossing, 
uneven development, and (post)coloniality, among others. It is interesting how 
the emergence of Atlantic or Pacific histories (representing the history of oceans 
that used to be considered a historical void) have become subfields that help 
interpret the past while transcending national histories. Shifts in historical 
research have given space and spatiality a privileged position for the study of 
social and political interrelations and networks that produce history. 

History and geography during the Enlightenment 

As seen by the extensive production and circulation of histories and accounts of the 
Americas, Asia, or Africa, colonial knowledge that reflected imperial aspirations 
focused on the depiction and labeling of conquered and contested spaces. During 
the late eighteenth century, intellectuals from modern states such as France, 
England, and Spain played a key role in the expansion of Europe's human, eco- 
nomic, and scientific understanding of the American territories. The reception of 
geographical and historical knowledge shaped significant "Enlightenment sensitiv- 
ities toward America" (Withers 2007: 158) that gave prominent roles to natural, 
civil, and geographical accounts in the national discourses of the history of the era. 
While Spain defended its colonial undertakings and pioneering contributions to 
geography, England and France made claims to territories with historical accounts 
that also placed geography at the core of progress - supporting commerce, naviga- 
tion, and scientific achievements as legitimating evidence of supremacy. We must 
remember that during this period American territories (British and Spanish) were 
negotiating and slowly securing their independence. Regardless of the shifting his- 
torical and ideological frameworks of these nations, their geopolitical discourses 
were unveiled within an absolutist idea of space. Within this perspective, education 
was supported on principles of the Enlightenment and defense of different 
European structures of power and identities. 

126 Santa Arias 

The late eighteenth century, a crucial period for the development of Western 
geography, is considered one of the busiest periods of well-documented expedi- 
tionary travel, such as those by James Cook (1769-80), Louis Antoine de 
Bougainville (1766-9), the Count of La Perouse (1785-8), and Alejandro 
Malaspina (1789-94), among others. These navigators and scientists contributed 
enormously to the empirical knowledge of the territories in the Atlantic and 
Pacific oceans, to the culture and discourse of science, and, within those, to 
accounts of human difference. Space translated into race in the philosophical 
undertakings of intellectuals of the period, demonstrating that interrelations, 
movement, and flows of societies opened up broader analytical possibilities for 
understanding humanity and geopolitical processes. While intellectuals were jus- 
tifying empire, they were also engaged in transcending it. 5 Mapping became an 
instrument of empire; it linked history and political events to place and "sup- 
ported a growing sense of sovereign political bodies" (Black 2000: 12). Greater 
accuracy was obtained with the problem of longitude resolved and a larger 
demand for history books that provided greater geographical detail and accuracy: 
"Book readers sought a history informed by precise cartography and a cartogra- 
phy that was historically accurate" (Black 2000: 8) 

At the center of late eighteenth-century historical discourses about unknown - 
and desired - territories was Spain, a political power that became the subject of 
severe attacks that resuscitated sixteenth-century wounds initiated by the 
Protestants. 6 The renowned leyenda negra (Black Legend) re-emerged and fed 
much of the critique of Spanish violent colonial practices over the indigenous 
populations, in spite of the persistent claims that the main objective of the con- 
quest was to bring the Catholic faith to the Americas. Critics of Spain pointed as 
evidence to the writings of the sixteenth-century Dominican Bartolome de las 
Casas, renowned for his defense of the Amerindian populations at the time of 
contact. His Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552) was projected 
as evidence of the greed and atrocities committed in the Spanish regions in the 
name of Christianity. This text, a political treatise that was used as a geopolitical 
tool against Spain, presented a geography of violence that scandalized Europe 
over the exercise of Spanish power in colonial territories. Las Casas collected 
and edited eyewitness testimonies of physical and human destruction in every 
island and region of the continent. His rhetoric was grounded in spatial interrela- 
tions where the methods of aggression in one place influenced other spaces 
as colonialism extended throughout in the hemisphere. Las Casas's manuscripts 
circulated widely during the eighteenth century, generating a polemical debate 
about the consequences of empire. Voltaire, Cornelius de Pauw, Guillaume abbe 
Raynal, William Robertson, and Juan Bautista Murioz all expressed strong opinions 
on Las Casas. 7 

More than an assessment of the Spanish, at the core of late eighteenth-century 
histories about the Americas was the need for validation of control of territories 
that sustained the interest of the rest of Europe. Therefore, the revival of the Black 
Legend served to demonize Spain and, as it has been recently argued, supported 
the construction of whiteness that gave rise to modernity and vested dark 

The geopolitics of historiography 127 

symbolic power in anything Hispanic in the Anglo-American imagination 
(DeGuzman 2005). Within that modernity, we must account for trade and expan- 
sion, as intellectuals rethought Buffonian ideas about the place of indigenous 
societies in nature. 

Late eighteenth-century intellectuals framed what Antonello Gerbi (1993) 
called the "dispute of the New World" with geography at the center. They elabo- 
rated a pervasive description of space in the Americas that encompassed a deter- 
ministic approach to human diversity. These views emphasized the influence of 
the environment on indigenous populations and long-term effects over European 
settlers. Montesquieu, Buffon, Raynal, and De Pauw, among others, recycled 
classical and early modern thought from Hippocrates to Jean Bodin. For them, the 
physical environment influenced mental and physical states, as well as societal 
development. In spite of of how contemporary scholars understand the back- 
wardness of environmental determinism as a measure to understand societies, in 
the late eighteenth century it became a major subtheme in geographical discourse 
and made geography more relevant in philosophical inquiries and in historiogra- 
phy. Most of the historical accounts of the colonial period, from the sixteenth- 
century official historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo's Historia general y 
natural de las Indias (1535) to the eighteenth-century Chilean Creole, Juan 
Ignacio de Molina's Compendio della storia geographica, naturale e civile del 
Regno de Chili (1776), included extensive geographical narratives that articulated 
this conundrum while they tried to affirm or deny the humanity of Amerindian 
societies. These historical accounts, beyond locating regions in their longitudes 
and latitudes, also expanded and interpreted knowledge on topography, hydrog- 
raphy, climate, populations, flora, and fauna. Furthermore, in the eighteenth 
century, geographical knowledge demonstrated that the domination of nature and 
indigenous societies was essential in the expansion of political borders and, as we 
consider the Creole response to European histories, it facilitated an affirmation of 
identity embedded in their land. In the case of William Robertson and Juan 
Bautista Munoz, while they represented and defended their nations, they also pre- 
sented a critical and comparative perspective based on rationalism and primary 
sources that set them apart from other intellectuals of the period. They were not 
writing in a vacuum. 

Writing the Americas 

While Diderot and d'Alembert's encyclopedic project unfolded (1751-65) with 
geography framed within history, more attention was to be placed on the 
Americas. 8 The decade of the 1770s was known for the centrality of this region 
in new critical European philosophical and political histories. Hence, late eigh- 
teenth-century historians, such as Robertson and Munoz, set out to reread early 
colonial accounts and find in old forgotten archives more sources to complete and 
give new meaning to the early years of contact. Textual evidence validated new 
reforms such as the open trade put in place by Charles III, defined social hierar- 
chies, and helped enforce control over the territories. For them it was clear that 

128 Santa Arias 

the benefits of European domination (agriculture, commerce, religion) out- 
weighed the pain of the wars of conquest. In the case of the Scottish historian, 
impartiality seemed to rule his rhetoric when he set forth the ideological agendas 
of the period that were influenced by the new ideas of progress, power, and by 
the time he published his History of America, the loss of British colonies and 
emergence of a new American identity. 9 

In order to interpret the impact of the "new discoveries" within the wider frame 
of European history, William Robertson led European historians when he pub- 
lished in London (with an immediate reprint in Dublin) his ambitious History of 
America (1777). 10 Using a range of historical registers and primary sources care- 
fully listed after his preface as evidence of his reliability as a historian, he pro- 
posed to analyze the impact of the early "achievements and institutions" (1851: 
p. iv) by the Spanish, Portuguese, and British, and the nature of the physical and 
human space of the continent. Book 4 is perhaps the key part of the project where 
he takes on previous historians to find a middle ground in the study of the nature 
of Amerindians. He compares them to other societies that were believed to be 
either more primitive or the more advanced European civilizations from antiq- 
uity. Both Robertson and Munoz recognized, expanded, and revised the ideas of 
Buffon, Raynal, and De Pauw. While Munoz refuted them fiercely, Robertson, in 
a very complex argument, supported a modified Buffonian deterministic approach 
by stating that temperate zones influenced Amerindian societies in a positive 
manner while in the Tropics they were violent and degenerate. In general, he pro- 
posed a four-stage theory of social development based on geography and modes 
of survival. 

The first edition of the History of America did not include the British territo- 
ries or the Portuguese settlement in Brazil. Robertson explained that his history 
was incomplete; however, he went ahead because "of the present state of the 
British colonies" and questions about "ancient form of policy and laws" that civil 
war brought forward (1851: p. i). 11 Here he was referring to the Declaration of 
Independence that had dissolved British claims to American territories within less 
than a year of the first printing; Robertson's arguments on British colonial rights 
and supremacy had no point (Armitage 1995: 69). 12 He continued making revi- 
sions for subsequent printings until 1788. After his death, the papers that com- 
prise the histories of Virginia and New England (books 9 and 10) were found and 
published by his son in 1796 (Humphreys 1969: 25). As David Armitage (1995) 
stated, no other historical account could compare to Robertson's since Antonio de 
Herrera's multivolume Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos (1601— 
15). Nevertheless, his historical assessment had an underlying agenda since 
Robertson believed that the Indians were indeed an inferior race and that 
European political domination over American spaces was justified and necessary. 

After its publication, Robertson's History of America became a bestseller and 
praised for his method and critical insight (Sher 2006). Detailed notes followed 
the main body of the text reflecting the scope of his research and thought on 
issues ranging from the history of the classical period to events during his 
lifetime. In Spain, the Royal Academy of History approved its translation and 

The geopolitics of historiography 129 

publication. Nevertheless, this attempt was halted when an outside reviewer 
pointed to Pedro Rodriguez de Campomanes and members of the Royal Academy 
that the text "at every turn insulted Spain" and argued that "only Spaniards could 
write a truly history of the Indies" (Canizares-Esguerra 2001: 178-9). Robertson, 
who maintained a relationship with Campomanes, managed to represent the 
Spanish colonists as greedy and cruel. For him, their major mistake was their lust 
for gold when they should have been investing in agriculture, trade, and com- 
merce; for Robertson "Their system was not based in toleration and civil liberty" 
(Phillipson 1997: 62). Robertson's History was banned in Spain, Spanish 
America, and the Philippines by royal decree in 1778. At that point, and with 
Spain in much need of a corrective history, Charles III appointed Juan Bautista 
Munoz to write the historical account of Spain in the Americas. Munoz accepted 
the commission, an event surrounded by much debate since the Royal Academy 
of History held all official responsibilities dealing with national history. Munoz 
had to write a new critical history that would re-evaluate Spain's own colonial 
experience and respond to the negative representation that the philosophes had 
promoted in Europe. Spain's attempt at a corrective history came late in the eigh- 
teenth century, after the country had suffered many years of criticism hurting its 
own national identity and image as a modern European power. 

In 1793, the same year that Robertson died, Juan Bautista Munoz published his 
Historia del Nuevo Mundo to try to save Spain's colonial past from the harsh cri- 
tique that was endangering its rule in the Americas. As can be imagined, with a 
booming book industry in Britain that had a preference for histories, Munoz's 
Historia del Nuevo-Mundo was translated into English and published in London 
in 1797. Surprisingly, the preface to the English edition introduces Munoz as the 
historian of the Americas who surpassed others for accuracy and a comprehen- 
sive design to "dissipate any clouds which hung over the History of the Discovery 
of the New World" (1797: p. vii). In spite of the several attempts by Robertson to 
procure as many original sources as possible to compose his history, Munoz, for 
his Historia, succeeded where Robertson had failed. 13 

Munoz's Historia achieved more than a defense of the virtues of the continent, 
its nature and environment. The first volume reassessed Spanish history and 
emphasized Columbus's contributions to geographical knowledge and navigation 
in the reconnaissance of the western unknown regions. He also intended to write 
about the conquest of Mexico and Peru, but his second volume was never pub- 
lished. 14 Munoz used as a major historical source Bartolome de las Casas's writ- 
ings on the Columbian enterprise, which defended Columbus while paradoxically 
offering his aggressive critique of early Spanish colonial practices. 

Ironically, to write his history Munoz followed the model set in William 
Robertson's History of America. Perhaps the Spanish historian was the author of 
the anonymous review that banned Robertson's text and halted its translation 
(Canizares-Esguerra 2001: 181). Ironically, in trying to refute Robertson, who 
wrote under the shadow of Buffon, Raynal, and De Pauw, Munoz followed his 
arguments closely. 15 Nevertheless, he was not attempting emulation but refutation, 
and highlighting Spain's achievements in science, navigation, and commerce. 

130 Santa Arias 

Robertson's reflections on geography had three angles: first, in his statement of 
the centrality of commerce and its dependency in new geographical knowledge; 
second, in the demonstration of the role of geography to understand the population 
of indigenous societies; and third, in the philosophical exegesis on the influence of 
location on behavior. In the first book, he offers a painstaking description of early 
European navigation where advances in geography and branches of science are 
linked to the Greek, Roman, Arab, Portuguese, and Spanish contributions to nav- 
igation and, consequently, to the civilizing role of commerce. His comments on 
geography were not as explicit as those by Munoz, however, in the notes to the text 
he elaborates the relevance of space, place, and mapping in his reconstruction of 
history. In a comment on Robertson's work, Major Rennell (a geographer) states: 

Since I understood the subject, I have ever thought, that the best historian 
is the best geographer; and if historians would direct a proper person, 
skilled in the principles of geography, to embody (as I may say) their ideas 
for them, the historian would find himself better served, than by relying on 
those who may properly be styled mapmakers. 

(1717: p. cxiii) 

Rennell considered Robertson the best historian to take on such an enormous 
task because of his knowledge of geography. 

Mapping the spaces of history 

As usual with historians of the Enlightenment, William Robertson and Juan 
Bautista Munoz had prefatory maps that complemented their historical accounts 
and served as rhetorical and legitimating instruments of the "truth" conveyed in 
the text. In addition, maps made historical accounts more valuable in the flour- 
ishing European book market. Beyond the aesthetics of the period, these maps 
linked and illustrated the relationship between historical inquiry and territorial 
possessions to national politics and commercial expansion within the unsettled 
global landscape of their empires. The History of America included four maps by 
Thomas Kitchin (1718-84), the royal hydrographer, who was considered one 
of the most prolific map-makers of the period. 16 These historical maps were 
intended to visualize and spatialize post-conquest history with exceptions that 
pointed to precolonial divisions of the territory or the establishment of new set- 
tlements significant in the 1770s. Kitchin's map of South America, included in 
Robertson's History, indicated with an intermittent line European possessions at 
the time (Figure 8.1). However, in his "Map of the Golf of Mexico" in Hispaniola 
he incorporated the original Taino divisions of the island as at the time of 
Columbus's arrival. This map shows the influence of French cartographers whose 
maps reflected France's long-standing interest in Hispaniola. 

The four maps included were busy, as they layered history by locating old and 
new places and continued uncertainty over the naming of regions. For example, 
one feature found in much of the cartography of the period was the hesitation at 
choosing toponyms: "Mexico or New Spain," "Pacific Ocean or South Sea", 

The geopolitics of historiography 131 

Figure 8.1 "Map of South America," by Thomas Kitchin. Courtesy of Robert Manning 
Strozier Library Special Collections, Florida State University. 

"Gulf of Mexico or North Sea", "Venezuela or Caracas". Names changed as 
regions changed hands or as the Creole intelligentsia intervened in the naming of 
their own territories. 

132 Santa Arias 

Beneath the spaces represented on paper we find the social forces behind 
Europe's civilizing mission. Kitchin's map "Mexico or New Spain, in which the 
motions of Cortes may be traced" acknowledge in detail physical aspects of the 
territory that includes the topography, rivers, lakes, coastlines and harbors; as 
well as human spaces established by indigenous groups, Spanish missionaries or 
British settlers (Figure 8.2). This map was done with more care and detail than 
those commissioned to Kitchin for inclusion in Raynal's Histoire philosophique 
et politique (1770). He combined in his depiction French cartography, especially 
d'Anville's representation of the Americas ("Hemisphere Occidental ou du 
Nouveau Monde," 1761), with newer revisions done according to instructions 
and new knowledge of expeditions of the interior. Kitchin's visualization of the 
territories relied on what was considered trustworthy information and when none 
was existent, he did not hesitated on labeling it as unknown. In this map, New 
Mexico borders to the north a "Great Space of Land unknown" that erases from 
the landscape the indigenous groups populating the Great Plains region. As in 
much of Robertson's work, the map also shows ambivalence towards the 
Amerindians. In the case of Spain's possessions, Amerindian place-names are clearly 
marked intermingling with Spanish settlements. In most European maps of the colo- 
nial period, the cartographer controls the location of indigenous settlements. 
These regions are omitted to leave space to other places where crucial historical 
events took place or where major colonial institutions were located. In the map 
"Mexico or New Spain" the promised route of Cortes is buried, and the viewer 
can barely distinguish important places of his itinerary such as his first establish- 
ment of Veracruz, or the indigenous Zempoalla (Cempoala), or Tlaxcala. The 
"environs of Mexico" referring to Technotilan and its surroundings areas are 
highlighted in the insert. It provides further details on a smaller scale of the Aztec 
region around the "lake of Mexico" where the historical calzadas, water sources 
and urban design are clearly marked. 

Mufioz intended to include three maps, one of them representing the Caribbean 
region, described similarly to Kitchin's Map of the Gulf of Mexico that was 
included in Robertson's. Beyond the tactical inclusion of maps to show the sce- 
nario of events, Munoz embedded the history of the region within a reflection of 
the world commercial system. For Munoz, Columbus, who represented Spanish 
interests, was the key figure in the emergence of modernity. He established the 
existence of a new continent and redefined European seapower. For Munoz and 
Robertson, the Atlantic became the space of global politics, with Spain and 
England respectively leading in the colonization (as synonym of progress) of 
North and South America. 

In Munoz's Historia del Nuevo Mundo, the artist Tomas Lopez Enguidanos 
(d. 1814) drew the prominent map "Mapa del Nuevo-Mundo" with its insert of 
Hispaniola (Figure 8. 3). 17 In the hemispheric map of the original publication, the 
cartographer followed a different approach to Kitchin. Lopez's map was clean, 
with no sign of frontier lines, layering colonial history with its precolonial and 
colonial place names but pointing to new discoveries by correcting coastlines 
that show his knowledge of new voyages such as those of the northwest region 

The geopolitics of historiography 133 

Figure 8.2 "Mexico of New Spain, in which the Motions of Cortes may be traced," 
by Thomas Kitchin. Courtesy of Robert Manning Strozier Library Special 
Collections, Florida State University. 

of North America. Munoz explains "These are the western discoveries of the 
Spaniards. This is the New World worthy of the name not only on account of its 
been unknown to the ancients, but even for the new things which it affords and 
produces in physics and morals" (1797: 70). If Robertson placed commerce and 
navigation within the broader scope of universal history, in Munoz's text, 
Spain's colonial accomplishments led Europe into that same modernity defined 
by navigation and what the Spaniards contributed to knowledge: "In conse- 
quence of these discoveries, the southern part of our globe was circumnavigated, 
and its true form brought to light, together with a knowledge of its principal parts 
and products, and what was still greater, the sphere of our ideas was enlarged" 
(1797: 70). 

Both texts and maps attempted to secure physical spaces; while Munoz legiti- 
mated Spain's political power, Robertson's placed European rights within its civ- 
ilizing force. Space as territory or as "produced, perceived and lived realms" 
(Lefebvre 1991: 40) is deeply linked to identity formation and the subject's 
mobility. For both of them, Columbus, Cortes, and Pizarro moved through terri- 
tory, appropriating it in the name of religion and civilization. For Enlightenment 

134 Santa Arias 

Figure 8.3 "Mapa del Nuevo-mundo," by Thomas Lopez Enguidanos. Courtesy of Robert 
Manning Strozier Library Special Collections, Florida State University. 

intellectuals, they provided an insight into nature, the world, and human diversity. 
They led the first colonists to occupy, organize, and control space. 


In the study of historiography, it has been recognized for quite some time its 
rhetorical force as historical narratives incorporate different discourses (i.e., 
legal, religious, autobiographical) and combine tropes to construct their plot and 
persuade as necessary (White 1978, 1987). In the eighteenth century, maps and 
charts included in histories played a major role as another form of persuasive 
expression and consistent emphasis on the importance of territory. As J.B. Harley 
explained, in the interpretation of maps, we have to move beyond "the assumed 
link between reality and representation that has dominated cartographic thinking" 
(1992: 232) and find gaps and silences that cannot be explained within positivist 
epistemology. Indeed, cartography provided the material specificity needed for 
history-making, offering an interpretation of territory as an essential commodity 
and representing a subject of contention among political powers. 

The geopolitics of historiography 135 

What is the proper place of geography in the study of history? The historio- 
graphy of the Enlightenment concerning the Americas presents one of the best 
examples of the production and use of geographical knowledge to interpret 
history. It is clear from the study of Robertson and Munoz how both disciplines 
are bonded together and as they produced knowledge about a place, they express 
power within a wider context of inquiry about human diversity and debate about 
territorial claims. For William Robertson and Juan Bautista Munoz, writing the 
histories of the Americas was not a project of description of Europe's posses- 
sions, but a reflection of the colonizing project of England and Spain that 
revealed that geography was too pervasive and important to the understanding of 
difference and progress in science and commerce. They spatialized imperial aims 
by providing a geographical narrative that pointed to the layers of history of their 
maps. In these accounts, they challenged historical assumptions and repositioned 
their nations with all the authority that historical discourse could provide. Their 
accounts presented space as a place of interrelations in time and space, thus redefin- 
ing Enlightenment ideology and modernity. 


1 Edmundo O'Gorman (1958) explains how the ideas of the Americas disseminated in 
Europe were constructed according to particular loci of enunciation that did not corre- 
spond to the actual reality of Amerindian societies at the time of contact. 

2 On the subject of the relevance of geography and cartography during the Enlightenment, 
the work of David Livingstone (1992, 2003), Matthew Edney (1997), and Charles 
Withers (2007) are paramount. 

3 For more on Foucault's contribution to geography, see Elden and Crampton (2007). 

4 See Alan Baker's assessment on the interrelations of geography and history in the 
twentieth history (2003: 16-24). 

5 In a recent dialog between historians, "transnational history" was defined as a field that 
"implies a comparison between the contemporary movement of groups, goods, tech- 
nology, or people across national borders and the transit of similar or related objects in 
an earlier time" (Seed in 'AHR conversation' 2006: 1443). It should not to be confused 
with "global history" or the long-standing subfield of "world history." 

6 There is an extensive literature on this topic. Detailed accounts on the "Black Legend" 
include the classical studies by Julian Juderias (1914) and Romulo Carbia (1943); in 
American history and cultural studies by Charles Gibson (1971), William S. Maltby 
(1971), and, more recently, by Maria DeGuzman (2005). 

7 For Munoz, the Dominican's writings offered detailed information about geography, 
culture, and the environment of the Americas that, regardless of his accounts of atroc- 
ities, supported imperial claims at a critical moment when Spain was losing its territo- 
ries (Arias 2007). 

8 According to the encyclopedists "Geography should be placed within three different 
period headings" and with clear subdisciplines "Natural, Historical, Civil and Political, 
Sacred, Ecclesiastical and Physical" (quoted in Withers 2007: 174). 

9 On the role of impartiality in Robertson's History of America, see Smitten (1985). 

10 Robertson's History of America circulated widely. Its many editions and reprints 
included revisions by the author. He also became the best-paid Scottish author of his 
period in the emerging book market in Britain (Sher 2006: 214). 

136 Santa Arias 

1 1 Humphreys interpreted his statement by saying "Robertson preferred to postpone his 
discussion of the British colonies until he should know what was going to happen to 
them. He would wait, he said, 'with the solicitude of a good citizen, until the fervent 
subside, and regular government be reestablished, and then I shall return to do this part 

12 On Robertson's conservationism and his inability to finish the historical portion on 
British America, see Smitten (1990). 

13 Robertson could not travel to Spain and his intermediaries did not have access to the 
Archive of Simancas. Most of the materials that he was able to compile were acquired 
by purchase (Black 2000: 120). 

14 An incomplete second volume is part of the Obadiah Rich collections housed at the 
New York Public Library. 

15 As a sign of how closely he modeled his own history after Robertson, his official pro- 
posal presented to the Council of Indies, in order to get approval for the publication, 
was entitled Historia de America, a direct translation of Robertson's book. 

16 Kitchin had partnerships with some of the most renowned cartographers of the period 
in England, among them, Emanuel Bowen with whom he published in 1755, "The 
Large English Atlas". 

17 The English translation did not include the map, but only the insert and a portrait of 

9 "To see a world in a grain 
of sand" 

Space and place on an ethnographical 
journey in Colombia 

Margarita Serje 

Several years ago I took part in a utopic experience inspired by the Sierra Nevada 
de Santa Marta in Colombia. This massif, insulated from the Andes, hosts almost 
the entire spectrum of tropical American ecosystems, as well as a great number 
of endemic species. By the time of the Conquest, the Sierra was inhabited by a 
sizeable population that built settlements upon an astounding stone infrastructure. 
This society, known as the Tairona, is considered along with the Muisca to be one 
of the great precolonial civilizations in Colombia. Today, four indigenous groups, 
descendants of these builders of stone, inhabit the highlands of the Sierra. By 
virtue of the intriguing world of esoteric knowledge with which "the magic of 
ethnography" (Malinowski 1961) has endowed them, the peoples of Sierra 
Nevada appear as the "guardians of the world" (Davis 2004: 38) whose "voices 
of ancient wisdom rise to save the planet from pollution" (Perera 1998: M2). 

In the early 1970s, the vestiges of one of the ancient Tairona cities were dis- 
covered in the slopes of the Sierra facing the Caribbean. The Colombian 
Anthropological Institute (ICAN) set up a research station in the site known as 
Ciudad Perdida (Lost City). I was part of the team of researchers who arrived in 
1979 to work in this area, shrouded in mountain rainforests. The beauty and pro- 
fusion of these forests led our group to propose that recovering the archaeologi- 
cal sites should not only be aimed at studying the social organization of the 
Tairona, but also their agency in environmental management. It was important to 
consider not only the archaeological remains, but also the forest itself, insofar as 
its history is inextricably linked to the indigenous way of life, both pre-Hispanic 
and present. 

We asked ourselves how it was possible that after intensive occupation lasting 
close to 500 years these forests continued renewing themselves, whereas as a 
result of recent occupation in less than 30 years, the area was already covered by 
pastures, and erosion was irreversible. By then, the marijuana boom was in full 
swing. The Santa Marta Golden (as the marijuana harvested in the Sierra Nevada 
was known in the illegal market) advanced like a shadow that decimated in its 
wake thousands of hectares of forest. With it, contingents of peasant-settlers pen- 
etrated upstream, pushing indigenous communities to higher ground. We set out 
to establish a permanent presence on the ground, where the challenge was to 

138 Margarita Serje 

coexist with the neighbors, settlers or indigenas. For us, our work was no longer 
just about studying archaeological ruins, but about making new knowledge. Thus, 
studying "the past for the future" became one of our main objectives. We delim- 
ited an area that was to become the "Historical and Natural Park of the Buritaca 
River", where it would be possible to fulfill two major objectives. The first was 
to protect, at least in this zone, the integrity of indigenous territory in the face of 
violent onslaught by marijuana growers; second, to protect the archaeological 
sites and the forest, both equally valuable as evidence of ancient settlement and 
as contemporary indigenous landscape and way of life. To achieve our goals, we 
built "stations" in strategic sites. We were aware of the fact that our physical pres- 
ence would illustrate the type of relationship we intended to establish with our 
surroundings. Thus, we decided that our dwellings should reproduce in their 
architecture and landscaping the models provided by the indigenous settlements 
(both current and ancient) in terms of materials, water management, vegetation 
and topographic implantation. Indigenous authorities came by often to find out 
what we were doing with the sites where the "Ancients became stone" and they 
explicitly asked us not to dig. Archaeological remains are for them places where 
the "mothers" of ritual knowledge and healing are stored. We agreed to stop 
archaeological excavations, devoting ourselves instead to studying what had 
already been looted and to regional prospecting. 

In our zeal to protect the area, we also began to get acquainted with campesino 
settlers. We met people who came from the most violent areas of the country. The 
"old ones" had arrived during the decade known as La Violencia (1948-58) 1 
attracted by the "gold rush" of looting. Back then, they told us, gold artifacts came 
out in heaps. Behind the looters, peasant-settlers started building homes on the 
Tairona stone infrastructure that appears to cover the entire northwestern corner of 
the Sierra. As the guaqueria (tomb-raiding) was in full swing, marijuana made its 
appearance. Attracted by this new boom, a second contingent of settlers arrived. 
When we set up the Historical Park, this boom was at its peak. Management of the 
project changed hands to an NGO created in order to streamline its financing. This 
scheme was the object of a heated public debate, which I will not discuss here, that 
concluded in the mid-1980s with the closing of the project and the expulsion of all 
of us who worked there. By then, marijuana was already beginning its decline and 
violence and poverty were evident in the peasant region. 

The project's closing, however, did not to put a halt to the commitment that our 
group felt to its friends and neighbors, indigenous as well as settlers. We resolved 
to create a foundation, modeled after the one that was being dissolved, with the 
capacity to receive financing from both the public and the private sectors, in order 
to continue with our endeavor. Thus, in 1986 we created the Fundacion Pro Sierra 
Nevada. One of its first goals was to set up a "community support center" in order 
to work directly with the peasant population. The premise was that by strength- 
ening this group of people and by proposing a form of habitation that was in 
accordance with the principles of sustainability learned from indigenous and 
Tairona settlements, it would be possible to secure their welfare while at the same 

"World in a grain of sand" 139 

time reducing their pressure on indigenous territory and its forests. We thus began 
to work with settlers along the usual lines: infrastructure, health, small productive 
projects, training community leaders and providing support and advice for inter- 
actions with government bodies. 

Then the guerrillas arrived. At first they only made sporadic appearances, but 
finally they stayed. They began by holding meetings with the community, visit- 
ing ranches, planning collective work, and settling everyday conflicts. They 
warned that those who behaved dubiously would be severely punished. When 
I asked one of our peasant neighbors how she saw the intervention of the guerril- 
las, she described it in a single phrase: "the guerrillas do the same thing you do, 
only with weapons." I was still disconcerted by those words when, a few days 
later, a mule train caught up with us along the way. There was no mule driver. 
Each mule had a bloody corpse tied to its back: all of them were peasant neigh- 
bors from the area. As the guerrillas admitted a few days later in a community 
meeting, the idea was to do some "social cleansing" in the region, and for this 
purpose they had executed all of those they considered "problematic". 

The thought that we did the same as the guerrillas, only without weapons, put 
an end to my idyllic view of the Park and confronted me with a series of ques- 
tions that have haunted me ever since. In trying to decipher this woman's asser- 
tion, I was forced to see with different eyes what it means to try to promote order 
in the life of a population and its landscapes. I began to realize that our work 
group had transformed this place into a project dependent on our way of concep- 
tualizing the Sierra as landscape and as the setting for our Utopian vision. 

My objective in this chapter is to illustrate, through our experience, beginning 
with an archaeological site and leading to the invention of a "planning region," 
some of anthropology's main concerns for space and spatiality. More than con- 
ducting an exhaustive review of the major anthropological approaches to the 
study of space and landscape and debates on methods and theory, 2 1 seek to dis- 
cuss and to illustrate a series of key issues. I am interested in showing the pro- 
duction of anthropological knowledge as a "spatial practice," 3 i.e., a strategy 
through which a spatial reality is created just as the social conditions of its cre- 
ation are veiled. 4 In order to do this, I will focus on the practice of contextualiza- 
tion, which is key for the production of anthropological knowledge, and in which 
a discursive field is created as a necessary condition for, in Trouillot's (2003) 
terms, a geography of the imagination that goes hand in hand with a geography 
of management. 

Here I also propose an ethnography that seeks to travel the paths, both concrete 
and metaphorical, taken by our group, through which new connections were 
made between the Sierra and the world. Apart from sketching the itinerary of the 
invention of this place as a cultural story, I intend to contribute to the visualiza- 
tion and legitimization of territorial notions developed by its inhabitants. From 
this standpoint I intend to make a contribution to the ethnography of this place, 
to "the ways in which citizens of the earth constitute their landscapes and take 
themselves to be connected with them . . . how men and women dwell" (Basso 

140 Margarita Serje 

1996: 54). Although this type of work is not abundant (Hirsch 1995; Feld and Basso 
1996), anthropology has always concerned itself with the "aura" of a place, the way 
in which geography is experienced and endowed with meaning. Ethnography, by 
delving into the fine grain of everyday life, has tried to "see a world in a grain of 
sand" in William Blake's famous line, or as Basso puts it, "in a few grains of 
carefully interpreted sand" (1996: 57), understanding inhabited places as places 
filled with social and cultural worlds. 

The field 

Perhaps the first lesson our Historic Park team 5 learned had to do with the insta- 
bility of the concept of "field." Fieldwork, which constitutes one of the distinc- 
tive pillars of the discipline, historically took place through a series of practices 
that entail an experience of depaysement: of displacement and estrangement, 
embedded in a certain way of understanding the practice of travel. In this tradi- 
tion, empathy for worlds located in the confines of the modern is intertwined with 
a particular way of narrating them (Rabinow 1977; Fabian 1983; Clifford 1988, 
1997; Gupta and Fergusson 1997; Trouillot 2003). The practice of the field locates 
and circumscribes space. Archaeological as well as anthropological analysis took 
the isomorphism between space, time, and culture as certain (Fabian 1983; Gupta 
and Fergusson 1992a, 1992b; Thomas 1996), insofar as any understanding of 
social processes was anchored in the description of everyday life at a locality (a 
village, an island, a "longhouse") identified with the particular group that inhab- 
its it: "Ethnography thus reflects the circumstantial encounter of the voluntarily 
displaced anthropologist and the involuntarily localized 'other'" (Appadurai 
1988: 16). As pointed out by Trouillot, "increasingly, anthropology's object of 
observation turned out to be defined primarily as a locality" where there is a ten- 
dency to "conceive places as best as locales, and as worst as localities, rather than 
as locations", in the sense that "its situatedness as locations remains vague" 
(Trouillot 2003: 122-3). 6 The historical circumstances of the Sierra forced our 
team to situate the field we worked in, expressing the epistemological crisis that 
began to take form in the discipline. 

Our field, which was at first an archaeological site, was temporally destabiliz- 
ing. When artifacts from the Castilian occupation began to appear, we realized 
that the "occupation stratum" did not speak so much of the synchronic reality of 
a pure Amerindian culture, but rather of a social process marked by a colonial 
relationship. Later, when trying to determine the site's limits, we found that it was 
not possible to establish a clear perimeter for the cluster of lithic structures: the 
density of terraces and contention walls decreases along the trails and increases 
again until it conforms another agglomeration, making it impossible to establish 
clear limits between them: "The site" had to be expanded to cover the spatial con- 
tinuum evidenced by the lithic infrastructure. The "field" was again transformed 
when we introduced the concept of landscape and indigenous historical culture as 
relevant for archaeological interpretation. All of this forced us to leave aside a 

"World in a grain of sand" 141 

defined object of study as a set of traits and objects in order to visualize it as a 
complex network of social relationships where the field appeared more as an 
open realm, connected in several ways to the "external" world. In this change, our 
interaction with the indigenous communities had many pragmatic aspects, includ- 
ing the exchange of products and knowledge. 

The "field," then, ceased to be a discrete place - like an island in the middle of 
the jungle in which one arrived by helicopter - separated from our "real" lives a 
la Malinowski. It was transformed into a territory in which our lives were 
involved in three ways. First, we embraced the personal nature of our relation- 
ships with our neighbors, both indigenous and peasants. Second, our intention to 
turn the Park itself into a model of habitation for the region forced us to establish 
an explicit exchange of knowledge, which introduced nuances to the researcher- 
informant relationship that characterized ethnographic practice. And third, we 
were under permanent threat because we created a protected area where we effec- 
tively prevented access to chainsaws and marijuana planters. All of these factors 
gave a visceral twist to the meaning this project had. Santa Marta and Bogota 
ceased to be places where we could comfortably be "outside" the field, and 
became another battlefield for our endeavor. By the time the Historical Park was 
closed, it was already a physical entity: ICAN received a "site" that was no longer 
limited to the Lost City, but rather an area in the Buritaca basin delimited by a 
series of stations that were both archaeological sites and centers of interaction 
with our neighbors in the area. 

The Fundacion Pro Sierra continued with the station program as a model for 
the region's future. This model represented a spatial order: its aim was to recover 
the topographic patterns, the logic of the lithic infrastructure, and the use of mate- 
rials, water and vegetation in order to recreate a landscape that reflected the his- 
torical settlement of the Sierra. The starting point for this project was 
understanding the "rational order in remarkably visual aesthetic terms ... an effi- 
cient, rationally organized city [is conceived as] a city that look[s] regimented 
and orderly in a geometrical sense" (Scott 1998: 4). The visual and geometric 
order of this "model of habitation" grew out of the fusion of Tairona stonework 
and Kogui architecture. 

The second major objective of the Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada was to call 
upon the state to pay attention to the Sierra Nevada, showing that it was possible 
to propose an adequate intervention model for this region. From the state's point 
of view, the Sierra existed as a marginal area, distant from administrative centers 

this fact has precluded the existence of integral policies and guidelines for 
the management of the Sierra Nevada as a region, since this task is handled 
from three administrative centers that all look to the coast. The foundation 
defines itself by taking the Massif as a territorial unit comprising the area 
topographically conformed by the Sierra and its piedmont, easily identifi- 
able thanks to its insular nature 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada, 1987) 

142 Margarita Serje 

este hecho ha impedido que existan politicas y lineamientos integrales para 
el manejo de la Sierra Nevada como region, pues la gestion se maneja desde 
tres centres que miran hacia la costa. La fundacion se define entonces 
tomando el macizo como una unidad territorial que comprende el area que 
topograficamente conforma la serrania y sus estribaciones, facilmente iden- 
tificable debido a su caracter insular 

We endeavored to make the massif visible, transforming it into a legible reality in 
the eyes of the administrations and showing its strategic importance to the nation: 

in the Sierra Nevada, the country has its most important ethnic, archaeo- 
logical, ecological and cultural roots. Nevertheless, the sierra is a fragile 
environment and its future is not clear 

(Mayr* 1984b: 7) 

el pais tiene en la Sierra Nevada, sus mas importantes bienes etnicos, 
arqueologicos, ecologicos y culturales. Empero, la sierra es un medio fragil 
y su futuro no esta claro 

The aim was to make the Sierra more visible, by proposing a specific interpreta- 
tion of its reality. 

This way of situating the Sierra was expressed in the Fundacion Pro Sierra 
Nevada's "creation discourse", rendered in the book La Sierra Nevada de Santa 
Marta (Mayr 1984a) which presents powerful visual images of the region. The 
book is centered on a series of spectacular photographs that introduce the Sierra 
Nevada through the primordial nature of a fog-shrouded landscape. The photo- 
graphs of the snowcapped peaks and the forest covered mountainsides are fused 
with the opening words of the Kogui creation myth: 

First there was the sea. All was dark. There was no sun, no moon, no people, 
no animals, and no plants. Only the sea was everywhere. The sea was the 
mother. . . . The mother wasn't a person or anything, it was no thing. She 
was the spirit of what was to come and she was thought and memory. 

(Reichel 1985: 17) 7 

Thus the Sierra/Mother is brought to life in this book through the dramatic nature 
scenes that appear as setting for the Tairona and the Kogui cultures. 

The Fundacion Pro Sierra also creates and disseminates a map of the Sierra, 
keeping in mind that 

the Foundation has as its main task to be an advocate for the conservation, 
protection, investigation and integral development of the geographic, cul- 
tural and social complex of the Sierra Nevada massif 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1987) 

la Fundacion tiene como tarea principal propender por la conservacion, 
protection, investigation y desarrollo integral del complejo geografico cul- 
tural y social del macizo Sierra Nevada 

"World in a grain of sand" 143 


F P S N 






Figure 9. 1 The last forest of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria. Courtesy of the Fondacion 
Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria. 

The map shows, in our view, the central traits of the mountain range: the topo- 
graphic lines differentiate the massif topographically from the coastal plains and 
the Andes mountain range; the river basins that, through our relationship with the 
indigenous communities, we came to acknowledge as axes of spatiality in their ter- 
ritory, represent water, the most precious resource from the Sierra for surrounding 
areas. Finally, the map locates the "last primary forests" (Figure 9.1). 

This map allows us to visualize the Sierra as "comparable to a mountainous 
island," as a microcosm characterized by biotic and cultural traits that make this 
massif unique. The notion that maps are created for specific purposes is not new. 
Borges tells in his Universal History of Infamy (1981), the tale of the 

144 Margarita Serje 

prodigious map of an empire, so precise and complete that its dimensions coin- 
cided point by point with those of the empire. It was finally abandoned, however, 
to the rigors of the sun and the rains, showing that the usefulness of a map does 
not lie in the precision of what it represents, but in the representation itself. The 
power of cartography lies in that it produces representations of the world whose 
supposed neutrality masks the social order it represents, while at the same time 
legitimizing it. Maps, like any other historically constructed image, present, as 
Mitchell points out, "a deceptive appearance of naturalness and transparence con- 
cealing an opaque, distorting, arbitrary mechanism of representation, a process of 
ideological mystification" (1986: 8), what Harley (1992) calls the map's "politi- 
cal unconscious." 

The Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada map took on an idiographic character that 
emphasized its biodiversity and a historical timeline that joined the present 
indigenous peoples with the ancient Tairona. This map quickly became an icon, 
and one could almost call it the Foundation's logo, appearing not only in docu- 
ments but also in t-shirts and promotional brochures. The Foundation achieved 
great political success, gaining support from the President himself and quickly 
obtained important donations. Over the following years, the massif as a discrete 
unit delimited by topography became endowed with meaning as an emblem of the 
Colombia's tropical abundance, as the historic landscape of ancestral cultures, 
and as a place of social conflict and interaction. 

Landscape and place 

The vision of the massif and its diversity of landscapes that inspired the 
Foundation's rhetoric and much of the mystique in its members has a history that 
cannot be untangled from the invention of America as a pristine natural territory 
(Gerbi 1973; Denevan 1992). For Colombians, landscape has historically been 
one of the main attributes identified with national pride. Our "prodigious geogra- 
phy" and the "voluptuousness of its tropical nature" 8 have been valued in the 
poetic terms of the European pictorial landscape tradition, which responds to 
interests that are both aesthetic and instrumental (Thomas 1996; Berque 1994; 
Roger 1997). This tradition, just as it highlights the enormous wealth locked in 
our "vast and exuberant territory", proposes that it must be civilized in order to 
attain progress. These scenic images of tropical geography are anchored in a 
series of colonial notions about American history and culture. 

The first of these ideas springs directly from the cartographic representation 
where on the horizontal surface of the map, the cordillera is transformed into a strat- 
ified succession of planes. Thus, the Andean topography appears horizontally seg- 
mented and classified as altitudinal strata. This vision hides the highly vertical 
understanding constructed by aboriginal societies about their territory. Ethnography 
and archaeology have documented the pattern of occupation known as "vertical 
control" or "vertical archipelago model" (Murra 1975; Langebaeck 1985). 
Leaving aside the fact that the notions of "control" and "model" are not entirely 
accurate to describe the relationships these groups have historically established 

"World in a grain of sand" 145 

with their surroundings, one can generalize by saying that their settlement was 
based on simultaneous management of several altitudinal levels, which permits 
access to an enormous variety of ecological niches. This vertical organization of 
territory is expressed in the fact that the system of river basins is an important 
social as well as spatial referent for these groups whose territories stretched, in pre- 
colonial times, from snowcapped peaks to the sea and the surrounding plains 
(Mason 1936; Reichel 1947; Cadavid and Herrera 1985; Serje 1987b) 

For indigenous societies of the Sierra Nevada - and in general for the Chibcha 
cultural continuum in the Colombian Andes - the flow of water is the mirror of 
social and historical life of the populations: it is the axis of historical-territorial 
memory (Loochkartt and Avila 2004) as well as of people's mobility. Besides 
representing memory and thought, the system of lakes and basins constitutes the 
axis of an embodied space 9 that flows with the rhythm of everyday life and inter- 
weaves landmarks, connecting the mountains and ridges with the bays and penin- 
sulas of the coastline, recreating the Sierra as a living body. 

The lake is the Mother's daughter, who put her on the mountains to give 
birth to rivers and streams. She was placed there by the Mother to have 
contact with the sea; she was put there to communicate through the river. 
The sea gathers all that the river carries. And from the sea rise the vapor 
and the froth, the clouds that return to the snow and the lakes, where it 
rains. Thus, there is constant communication between them. 

(Words of Mama Inkimaku from Makotama, OGT, 1997) 10 

The second colonial notion implicit in this representation of landscape is that 
of forests and jungles as "nature." In the European tradition, the cultural land- 
scape can only be geometric, measured, exploited, and supervised (Deleuze and 
Guattari 1987; Hartog 1991). Landscapes that do not contain these "improve- 
ments" are seen as "vast and deserted wasteland." Jungles appear either as distant 
paradises, rich in exotic species, or as plague and fever-infested prisons, thus rep- 
resenting the archetype of virgin nature, both prior and opposed to civilization. 
They are valued as a source of promising species and knowledge, and as sites 
where the exquisite terror of extreme risks may be experienced (Harrison 1992; 
Dalla Bernardina 1996; Slater 2003). These images have guided all sorts of proj- 
ects, from voyages of discovery and exploration to the most brutal extractive 
enterprises, and, certainly, conservation projects such as those of the Foundation. 

The cultural appraisal that defines these landscapes as "wild" hides the role 
played by those societies that have historically inhabited them. Ethnology and 
archaeology have illustrated broadly the forest management practiced by its abo- 
riginal inhabitants and have shown how, in great measure, its diversity is a result 
of their intervention. Jungle peoples have developed a type of temporal manage- 
ment of the territory in which various types of wild gardens or cultivated forests 
succeed each other (Rival 1998). These reflect the way in which groups classify and 
intervene in an area which, to outsider's eyes, appears generically as a "jungle". 
The chagra or plot, is not for these groups a domesticated area opposed to the 

146 Margarita Serje 

wild forest (Descola 1986; Van der Hammen 1992). On the contrary, both are 
part of a continuum of plant successions in which the mature forest is one stage 
of this agricultural technique that is planned and managed on a timescale of over 
a century (Van der Hammen and Rodriguez 2000). 

Efforts to study landscape as a cross-cultural reality usually naturalize the epis- 
temological relationship that made the invention of landscape possible in the West, 
that is, the relationship between a contemplative subject and an object (nature) in 
which the observer abstracts a portion of the earth's surface, ripping it from its his- 
torical-geographical context in order to place it within a new one, that of science 
or aesthetics. While anthropologists have engaged in evoking the native's point of 
view, the status of landscape as an autonomous object has been assumed, 11 thus 
projecting the premises of the Western duality of nature-culture to the relationship 
that other societies establish with their surroundings (Descola 2005). 

Perhaps in order to approach other forms of experiencing the environment, 
the concept of place may be more useful. According to Cresswell, "place is not 
just a thing in the World, but a way of understanding the world" (2004: 11). 
Anthropology has endeavored to understand the processes of both place-making 
and of dislocation. Thus, "anthropologists have come to worry less about place in 
broad philosophical or humanistic terms than about places as sites of power strug- 
gles or about displacement as histories of annexation absorption and resistance 
thus ethnography's stories about place are increasingly about contestation" (Feld 
and Basso 1996: 4). In the first sense, there has been an attempt to produce ethno- 
graphies of the perception and experience of specific places, examining the social 
relationships that produce them and seeking to describe and interpret the way in 
which people endow them with meaning. Discursive and performative practices 
through which places are formulated and experienced have been studied, since as 
Feld and Basso point out, "the intimate relationship between embodiment and 
emplacement brings the problem of place into close resonance with the anthro- 
pological problem of knowing 'local knowledge' " (1996: 9). 

In the second sense, places are studied as processes immersed in national and 
global power relations. Attempts have been aimed at documenting and under- 
standing processes of disarticulation and deterritorialization that accompany the 
creation of enclaves of inherent and consumer developments that make up the 
global economy, producing displacements, diasporas and exiles. If, as Lippard 
points out, place "is temporal and spatial, personal and political. A layered loca- 
tion replete with human histories and memories, ... it is about connections, what 
surrounds it, what formed it, what happened there, what will happen there" 
(cited by Cresswell 2004: 40), the study of places and localities must also be 
the study of the struggles and the resistance for maintaining and constructing 
meanings for place. 

The "black line": the sacred territory 

The idea of limiting the Sierra Nevada as a territory defined by its topography - 
i.e., by a topographic line - ends up overshadowing the indigenous notion based 

"World in a grain of sand" 147 

on the vertically and the continuity of hydrographic basins in the lowlands. This 
topographic barrier, which separates highlands and lowlands, also has a long 
history in American geography and ethnology. This distinction has been assumed 
to be a "natural" geographic separation, opposing the cultural landscape of the 
cordillera, whose temperate climate is considered the natural habitat of peoples of 
industrious character - and the natural landscape of the warm lowlands inhabited 
by backwards and lustful peoples incapable of taming the jungles and savannas. 
This opposition constitutes the geographical correlate of the linear history of 
human progress, which begins at the most primitive, represented by the savage 
tropics, and arrives at the most civilized, represented by a temperate, urban 
Europe. This geographical characterization has been especially important in the 
history of Colombia, since the social hierarchy of its inhabitants and regions was 
established based on the distinction between the lowlands, where people are 
subject to the nefarious influence of the torrid climate, and the "elevated," cul- 
tured and industrious groups of the Andean region. In the case of the Sierra 
Nevada, this distinction operates in powerful but subtle ways: it sets in opposi- 
tion the coastal groups and their corrupt and ignorant administrations and the 
"elder brothers," heirs of one of the great American civilizations and elevated 
spiritual traditions. 12 

The delimitation of the Massif based on its topography also reflects the vision 
of territory from Kogui cosmology, formulated in the ethnography of the Sierra: 

The Universal Mother, essence of all that is created, dug her spindle into 
the snowcapped peaks, from her spindle she pulled the thread and drew 
around it a circle; the region it contained she gave to her eldest children, so 
they and their descendants may inhabit there. The peaks where Mother dug 
her spindle, became the heart of the world . . . and the circumference traced 
by the Mother has been called the black line, and it has numerous guardians 
who appear to be of stone. 

(Botero* 1986: 4) 13 

Numerous cartographic attempts have been made to fix the black line, this myth- 
ical circumference, exerting pressure on indigenous organizations to identify the 
points that constitute it (Gil 1994). 

Attempting to translate mythical space into topographic space implies ignoring 
a crucial dimension of indigenous knowledge of the Sierra Nevada. On the one 
hand, concepts and categories that have different meanings and connotations 
depending on their context are used. Even everyday discourse is woven through 
a network of analogies and semantic references that imply several dimensions of 
reading and interpretation simultaneously. The elders intervene by identifying the 
connections between everyday life and the contents of the narratives that safe- 
guard historic memory (Gil 1994, 2007). This stance implies that the meanings of 
stories and myths are related to contemporary problems and political situations. 
To understand myth as an ahistorical reference, fixed by the ethnographic text, is 
part of a representation of indigenous peoples as natural as both natural peoples 

148 Margarita Serje 

and as naturalists ("naturales o gente en estado de naturaleza por un lado y natu- 
ralistas, o conocedores de la naturaleza, por otro Descola hace referenda a ambas 
representaciones") (Descola 1985) who have preserved a sacred relationship with 
the cosmos thanks to isolation, or who resist Western intervention. This repre- 
sentation argues these societies - equated with the infancy of humanity - "live in 
a Cosmos regarded as sacred and participate in the sacred cosmic reality manifest 
both in the animal and in the plant worlds", as put by Mircea Eliade, who places 
them in explicit opposition to "modern societies who live in a de-sacralized 
Cosmos" (1967: 22). 

The vindication of the spiritual-religious nature of indigenous thought and way 
of life - or in general of local and aboriginal groups in many parts of the world - 
has become in recent years a strategic axis for identity construction. The sacred has 
been incorporated into the repertoire of emblematic traits with which these identi- 
ties are staged. In fact, various institutions, including the World Bank, began to 
incorporate the dimension of "the spiritual" into their policies for indigenous ter- 
ritories. 14 This process implies the obj edification of the spiritual and sacred 
through a process of "scientisation," similar to that to which traditional knowledge 
must be subjected in order to be incorporated within the framework of technical 
and objective practices for planning and development (Agrawal 2002). This 
process entails the reification and reduction of the sacred, invoking essentialist cat- 
egories. The reduction of indigenous historical-territorial memory to a "black line" 
drawn on maps implies tying the history of indigenous societies to a locality and 
to an image (Appadurai 1988; Malkki 1992; Rodman 2003). Here, the starting 
point isn't just a conception of the Massif as a "taken-for-granted setting to situate 
ethnographic descriptions" (Low and Lawrence-Zuniga 2003: 15), but also a for- 
getting that places are "politicized, culturally relative, historically specific, local 
and multiple constructions" (Rodman 2003: 205). The essentialist appropriation of 
the "black line" blindfolds itself to the dynamic and conjectural nature of place. 
By fixing the sacred places in Cartesian space, the interanimation process through 
which region is built (Basso 1996: 55) is thus objectified. 

The cartographic notion of the "black line" stems from a monological and 
essentialist vision and not from a confluence of voices and landmarks that create 
connections with the surroundings (Kahn 1996), like the one taking place today 
in the Sierra. The area of the Historical Park has become the stage for an indige- 
nous resettling process. Ramon Gil, spiritual adviser of the indigenous organiza- 
tion who led a migration to this area from distant basins where their "traditional" 
territory is supposed to be located, tells that he decided to come here with his 
people because "my father's grandmother had told me that I had to come to the 
Nakulindue and Doanama basins to recover, to look for the wisdom, intelligence, 
knowledge, culture; because in Doanama two books are set in stone . . . That is 
why I came; in search of that book (Gil 2007). 15 The process of place-building in 
this new locality is related for this group to the recreation of knowledge and 
memory. Reviving "ancient" names creates a new toponymy: the Guachaca and 
Buritaca basins are renamed Nakulindue and Doanama. By thus naming them, 
this locality is connected to history and cosmology. The stone-books to which 

"World in a grain of sand" 149 

Ramon Gil refers are the vehicle to recreate the past: the "books set in stone" 
allow this community also to "inscribe" their geography, while at the same time 
rebuilding the territory as living space. The stones link the community with the 
knowledge of the elders and with the world of the ancients. For the present, they 
are landmarks that ratify their right to occupy a locality even if it is not part of the 
"traditional territory" fixed by ethnography. In addition, they are read as referents 
of the knowledge that reiterates the identity of their people and their territory. 

The massif: region of conflict 

The indigenous territory appeared to the Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada as a world 
threatened by chaos and violence, which called for public intervention. To this 
end, a proposal was directed at local and regional administrations to conduct a 
Diagnostic of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Even though 

the work had been initially conceived as an inventory of natural resources 
leading to a management plan, the seriousness of the social situation, 
which turned increasingly violent, made evident the need to give priority to 
the socioeconomic situation. 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988a: 2) 

el trabajo se habia concebido inicialmente como un inventario de recursos 
naturales conducente a un plan de manejo, la gravedad de la situacion 
social, la cual se hizo cada vez mas violenta, hizo clara la necesidad de dar 
prioridad al conocimiento de la situacion socioeconomica. 

The "diagnostic" made its main objective 

to delve into the causes of the situation at the Sierra, characterized ... by an 
intensification of social conflicts, the absence of updated information in sev- 
eral areas, the lack of coordination in planning and execution by state agencies. 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988a: 2) 16 

This work included an "institutional diagnosis" that sought to determine the 
need for government services, and a "social diagnosis," which sought to show the 
"current situation of the population" and "recent socioeconomic processes" 
through a historical study based on archives and secondary sources, an oral 
history of colonization, and a study of the conditions of the borders of the indige- 
nous territories. 

Feld and Basso remind us that "geographical regions are not so much physi- 
cally distinct entities as discursively constructed settings that signal particular 
social modalities" (1996: 5). In this sense, the Sierra Nevada is constructed as a 
region through this "diagnosis". It shares the central features of a set of "fron- 
tiers" that are perceived as fronts of resistance to the expansion of progress and 
civilization. Analysts refer to them as "empty spaces", "war territories," or as 
"internal borders". They have historically been imagined through the same set of 

150 Margarita Serje 

representations. On the one hand they are seen as a promise of enormous wealth 
and opportunities. On the other, they represent danger and risk. They are seen 
both as strategic for development - for their biodiversity, water and mineral 
reserves - and as a threat to national stability - because of their seemingly con- 
stitutive violence, rebellion, and drug trafficking. 17 

The Diagnostic represents the Sierra through basic traits: it emphasizes the 
absence of the state and its irresponsible management by coastal administrations, 
by virtue of which the Sierra is subject to the "law of the jungle" and experiences 
"extreme poverty that survives in a climate of violence and injustice". 18 It is 
presented as a territory whose 

image of geographical anomaly, shrouded in clouds and isolated by steep 
slopes has made it throughout history a setting for illusions and Utopias, 
and a refuge for those who have little to lose through a new adventure, 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988a: 16) 

imagen de anomalia geografica, envuelta en nubes y aislada por fuertes 
pendientes la ha colocado a traves de la historia como escenario de 
ilusiones y Utopias, y refugio de quienes poco quieren perder con una 
aventura mas, 

and where illegality reigns, since 

the tradition of contraband created a culture, forms of organization and 
infrastructure that were profitably adapted to the production and 
commercialization of marijuana. Contraband is a constituent part of the 
prevailing social structure in the region. 

la tradition del contrabando creo una cultura, unas formas de organization 
y una infraestructura que se adapto rentablemente a la production y 
comercializacion de la yerba [sic]. El contrabando es parte constituyente de 
la estructura social imperante en la region. 

as a place where "there is a culture where the illicit is legitimate, because State 
action seems to stop at the piedmont" (se desarrolla una cultura donde lo ilicito 
es legitimo, porque la action del Estado parece detenerse en el piedemonte) 
(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988b: 51). 

The campesino-settlers are represented as predators: "The settlers systematically 
destroy their environment; and in their wake lay waste to all regional forest 
preserves and fauna since they lack the knowledge that would allow them to 
properly manage resources, [this] has meant that a process of erosion in the area is 
irreversible" (Mayr 1984: 7). 19 They are represented as a group determined by a 
historical fatalism: 

violence in the Andean country produced a settler "without God, King, or 
Law", familiarized with violence and willing to use it to achieve their 

"World in a grain of sand" 151 

goals; settlers organizations were born out of violence and they perpetuated 
it in the Sierra as a means for social action, unleashing in those affected a 
reaction identical in its nature. 20 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988b: 51) 

Emphasis is placed in portraying this group of settlers as "prone to violence . . . 
that can't and does not know how to avoid it. Besides, they have experience in 
organizing it and exerting it socially. The guerrilla has thus an open door" 
(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988b: 52). 21 

The indigenous society is also presented in the Diagnostic through a history of refuge: 
"the Sierra was a marginal area covered by extensive wooded zones that separated the 
incipient and slow development of the lowlands from the life of the surviving aborigines 
in the highlands." 22 It points out that "out of these four groups, three subsist precariously, 
since the Kankuamo are culturally extinct and ... the Wiwa are in serious risk of cul- 
tural extinction" (Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988c: 1-2), 23 and these societies are 
presented through a gradation from the most traditional to the most "acculturated:" 

The Kogui are the most zealous guardians of their tradition and culture, they 
maintain great respect for their authorities, very few of their women speak 
Spanish and it is the group in whose territory money circulates the least. The 
Arhuacos ... are not a homogeneous group: on the one hand there are those tra- 
ditional sectors with similar characteristics to the Kogui; there is a second sec- 
tor with greater understanding of the country's sociopolitical reality, interested 
in developing a market economy and ... the third sector no longer wears tra- 
ditional clothing, speaks Spanish and has clearly peasant customs and interests. 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988c: 3) 24 

This analysis, which does not concern itself with historicizing the representations 
of these societies, 25 ends up taking legitimacy away from the "mestizo" groups: 

since they are settled inside the reservation, they modify in some cases their posi- 
tion depending on their interests. They present themselves as indigenous before 
the government and before the indigenous communities they present themselves 
as white . . . they have co-opted the representation of indigenous communities 
before State institutions in order to favor their immediate interests, channeling 
resources that were destined to the indigenous communities for their own benefit. 

(Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 1988: 3) 26 

The diagnostic document fulfilled the function of defining the traits of the 
Sierra Nevada as a planning region. Scott has shown that implanting any form of 
order "requires a narrowing of vision . . . [that] brings into sharp focus certain 
limited aspects of an otherwise far more complex and unwieldy reality" (1998: 
11). The exercise of diagnosing - a hygenic term used to designate the reading of 
a situation aimed at formulating policies, programs, or legal arguments - allowed 
the Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada to identify and characterize the aims of 

152 Margarita Serje 

government action; they portray the Sierra as a marginal and wild space governed 
by the will of the strongest and, above all, it shows its inhabitants as groups 
defined by scarcity and anarchy. 

De Certeau (1984) pointed out that the power to territorialize is materialized 
through classification, delimitation, and separation, which may be considered as 
spatial strategies. One condition that makes these strategies possible is the prac- 
tice of contextualization. The need to "put things in context" is a necessary sine 
qua non condition of social analyses. One of the main objectives of the social sci- 
ences is precisely that of situating the data, facts, and phenomena that they study 
"in context": we begin with the premise that a phenomenon or process in focus 
can be described and interpreted appropriately only if one looks beyond the event 
itself and if other phenomena, which provide resources to do this, are put in focus 
as well. In this regard, context, as an object of study, is the result of a multiple 
process of selection and interpretation. What is defined as a problem, together 
with what is deemed relevant as its explanation, depends on the way in which 
context is evoked and produced (Duranti and Goodwin 1992). Context takes 
shape through connections established between them and, naturally, through their 
disconnections (Dilley 1999). It is perhaps here where the etymology of the word 
context becomes particularly important, as it is derived from a textile metaphor 
in the Latin verb contextere: to tie, to weave, to join the threads of a fabric. 

Context is usually understood and expressed as a spatial reality through images 
such as "scene," "backstage," and "setting," which relate to the idea of a theatri- 
cal spectacle as a metaphor for social organization. Geography and representation 
merge in the symbolic and ideogrammatic tradition of the forma orbis in which a 
single image represents the world, showing its conditions in an abstract and sys- 
tematic manner (Alpers 1987). Thus, the historical-territorial reality is trans- 
formed into a scenic space on which to act. The idea of context as description of 
the world - of a world that gives meaning to an event or focal process - also pro- 
poses an image that appears simultaneously as a model, an ideogrammatic 
description, and a setting for action. It contributes to the illusion of the trans- 
parency of space (Lefebvre 1991: 28), showing it through a relatively objective 
description of a given reality, at the same time as it legitimizes and naturalizes 
social-spatial relationships. 

The production of context as a spatial practice is constitutive as well as a result 
of social action. By defining the context in which a relationship or process takes 
place, the nature of the setting is determined, as are the antecedents and relevant 
actors and their roles. Thus, contextualizing establishes the enabling conditions for 
legitimizing certain forms of intervention. The assumptions underlying the cre- 
ation of "frontiers" such as the Sierra Nevada - characterized by wild landscapes, 
the absence of state, "the law of the jungle," uprooted populations prone to ille- 
gality, neutralized natives - turn them into an "inversion" of formal spaces where 

the "others" of the master subject are marginalized and ignored in its gaze 
at space, but are also given their own places: the slum, the ghetto, the 
harem, the colony, the inner city, the third world, the private. These places 

"World in a grain of sand" 153 

haunt the imagination of the master subject, and are both desired and feared 
for their difference. 

(Blunt and Rose 1994: 16) 

At the same time, they legitimize and make possible the forms of action and admin- 
istrative figures through which these spaces are managed and intervened. 
Disembedding landscapes and social groups from their historical-geographical con- 
tinuity in order to see them as "frontiers" gives rise to negative representations: mil- 
itarization and paramilitarization, slavery, debt-peonage, trafficking, prostitution, 
intensive and extensive exploitation of licit and illicit resources. Here, anything goes. 

Epilogue: zone of intervention 

In large measure, lobbying by the Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada made the Massif 
into an area of state intervention. During the 1990s it became a "special district" 
of the National Rehabilitation Plan, a governmental initiative directed at regions 
suffering from "conditions of social conflict characterized by their marginality and 
by the absence of the State" (SIP 1990). 27 Since 2000, it become one of the nine 
"priority areas of intervention" for the "reconquest of the territory," an essentially 
military strategy against drug trafficking and guerrillas. Its objective is to consol- 
idate "the opening of these zones to development and to the global economy" 
(CCAI 2006). 28 The aim was to eliminate unruliness and allow profit from their 
resources. The area has now also become a theater for military operations. A "high 
mountain battalion" was stationed in the heart of indigenous territory. 

After the state adopted the Sierra as an intervention zone, the Fundacion Pro 
Sierra Nevada focused on biodiversity conservation. The foundations had already 
been laid: the Massif is considered to be a microcosm of the various tropical 
mountain ecosystems; it provides a habitat for numerous endemic species and is 
the home of cultures represented as homeostatic systems adapted to their environ- 
ment (Uribe 1988, 2006; Ulloa 2004). The internationalization of the Fundacion 
Pro Sierra Nevada and its positioning in the world of global environmentalism (as 
an active member of the UICN, the Global Biodiversity Forum, etc.) spearheaded 
a series of interventions that have turned the Sierra into a setting for international 
environmental action. Paradoxically, this type of involvement was aimed at those 
sectors of the population that have the most limited impact on the ecosystems, 
i.e., local populations. Those groups whose decisions and projects have most 
decisive effects on land ownership, landscapes, and the living conditions of its 
inhabitants are beyond their reach: investors, agents of agro-industrial projects, 
power blocs linked to coca and the paramilitaries, and even the technocratic sec- 
tor of the state, all of which are adamant about "competitiveness" in global mar- 
kets. While conservation was reduced to a problem of protected areas and local 
communities, the Sierra was opened to global investment. 

Gradually, a "land use" model emerged that delimited conservation areas, gen- 
erally assimilated into the indigenous area (which overlaps a Natural Park), and 
the rest of the Massif as an area of development. Both are geared to give way to 

154 Margarita Serje 

a variety of economic initiatives. The former are reserved for the consumption of 
nature through ecotourism, adventure tourism, and recently "spiritual" tourism, 
which sells ritual ceremonies of Indians from the Sierra. Areas that are not pro- 
tected are geared to the "hard" lines of regional development such as agro-indus- 
trial production, the intensive exploitation of resources, and the construction of 
large infrastructure projects. 

Thus, a distinction is established in the Sierra between a "sacred" space, aimed 
at conservation of biological diversity and its "ecological natives" (Ulloa 2004) and 
a space prepared for the development of the global economy. They are not, how- 
ever, in mutual opposition: they represent two faces of the same coin. They consti- 
tute a geography of management, whose enabling condition is the geography of the 
imagination that stems from the practice of contextualization woven with the routes 
traveled by our work group. Some of these roads allowed us a glimpse into a world 
in the Sierra. Others opened the way for the establishment of new connections 
between the Sierra and the world. Somewhere in the crossroads lies a Utopia. 


1 This decade is known in Colombian history for the bloody clashes between the 
Liberal and Conservative parties, triggered by a popular uprising known as El 
Bogotazo and lasting until the political agreement between the two traditional parties 
to alternate power. 

2 Several works have accounted for the way in which space and spatiality - as objects 
of study - have been problematized and conceptualized in anthropology, summariz- 
ing theoretical debates: Ellen 1993; Hirsch and O'Hanlon 1995; Low and Lawrence- 

3 Here I refer broadly to the concept of 'practical mastery' proposed by Bourdieu 

4 What Low calls social production of space, "the processes responsible for the mate- 
rial creation of space as they combine social, economic, ideological, and technologi- 
cal factors" and social construction of space, "the experience of space through which 
peoples social exchanges, memories, images and daily use of the material setting" 
(2000: 128). 

5 Works produced by this group are marked by an asterisk (*). 

6 Trouillot distinguishes between "location as a place that has been situated, localized 
if not always located. . . . locale as a venue, a place defined primarily by what happens 
there: a temple as the locale for a ritual . . . [Locality] as a site defined by its human 
content most likely a discrete population" (2003: 122-3). 

7 The original reads: "Primero estaba el mar. Todo estaba oscuro. No habia sol ni luna 
ni gente, ni animales, ni plantas. Solo el mar estaba en todas partes. El mar era la 
madre. ... La madre no era gente ni nada, ni cosa alguna. Ella era espiritu de lo que 
iba a venir y ella era pensamiento y memoria" (Reichel 1985: 17). 

8 I place these phrases in quotation marks without attributing them to anybody, since 
they are part of common knowledge since the nineteenth century. 

9 In the sense discussed by Low and Lawrence-Zuniga (2003). 

10 "La laguna es hija de la madre, quien la puso en los cerros porque desde alii nacen 
los rios y las quebradas. Esta laguna fue puesta por la madre para tener contacto con 

"World in a grain of sand" 155 

el mar, fue puesta para comunicarse por medio del rio. El mar recoge todo lo que el 
rio le lleva. Y desde el mar se levantan el vapor y la espuma, las nubes que van otra 
vez hacia la nevada y las lagunas, donde llueve. Asi, hay una comunicacion continua 
entre ellos." 

11 Berque (1994) drafts a set of criteria to identify what can be considered landscape 
cultures: the existence of a word to designate it, a pictorial and a literary or oral tra- 
dition to praise it, and the existence of gardens of enjoyment. According to him, the 
notion of landscape is not universal, and in fact it only exists - with different mean- 
ings - within the Sino-Japanese and Western traditions. 

1 2 In the republican history of Colombia, the cultured and refined elites from the Andean 
highlands are often opposed to the corrupt and backwards elites of the lowlands, 
especially the coast (Serje 2005). 

13 The original reads: "La Madre Universal, esencia de todo lo creado, clavo su gran 
huso de hilar en los picos nevados, de el desprendio la punta del hilo y trazo a su 
alrededor un cfrculo; la region comprendida la entrego a sus hijos mayores para que 
alii habitaran ellos y su descendencia. Los picos nevados, el punto donde la Madre 
clavo el huso, quedo como corazon del mundo ... a la circunferencia trazada por la 
Madre se le ha llamado la linea negra y tiene numerosos guardianes con apariencia 
de piedra." 

14 See, for example, World Bank 2004. 

15 In the original: "la abuela de mi papa me habia dicho que tenia que venir a la cuenca 
Nakulindue y Doanama a recuperar, a buscar la sabiduria, inteligencia, conocimiento, 
cultura, porque en Doanama esta plasmado en una piedra dos libros . . . Por eso me 
vine en busca de ese libro". 

16 "profundizar en las causas de la situation de la Sierra, la cual se caracterizaba [. . .] 
por la agudizacion de los conflictos sociales, la ausencia de information actualizada 
en diferentes areas, la falta de coordination en la planeacion y ejecucion de los pro- 
gramas de las diferentes entidades". 

17 This set of regions, which constitute over half of the national territory, was the topic 
of a work (Serje 2005), where I discussed the way in which regional studies in 
Colombia contextualize the relationship between the state and these territories. 

18 "una extrema pobreza que sobrevive en un ambito de violencia e injusticia". 

19 "la destruction sistematica del entorno por parte del colono, que a su paso arrasa con 
todas las reservas forestales y faunisticas de la region por carecer de los 
conocimientos que le permitan un manejo adecuado de los recursos, ha generado en 
esta zona un proceso de erosion irreversible". 

20 "la violencia en el interior del pais creo un colono 'sin Dios, ni Rey, ni Ley', familiarizado 
con la violencia y dispuesto a usarla para alcanzar sus metas, las organizaciones de 
colonos nacieron de la violencia y la prolongaron en la sierra como medio de action 
social, desencadenando en los afectados una reaction de identica naturaleza". 

21 "es proclive a la violencia ... no puede ni sabe evadirla. Tiene - ademas - 
experiencia en organizarla y ejercerla socialmente. La guerrilla tiene pues una puerta 

22 "la sierra fue un area marginal cubierta por extensas zonas de bosque que separo el 
incipiente y lento desarrollo de las partes bajas de la vida de los indigenas 
sobrevivientes en las partes alias." 

23 "de estos cuatro grupos hoy tres subsisten precariamente, pues los kankuamo se 
extinguieron culturalmente y ... los wiwa se encentran en serio peligro de extincion 

156 Margarita Serje 

24 "Los kogui son los guardianes mas celosos de su tradition y su cultura, conservan un 
gran respeto por sus autoridades, muy pocas de sus mujeres hablan castellano y es el 
grupo en cuyo territorio el dinero tiene menor circulation. Los arhuacos ... no son 
un grupo homogeneo: por un lado se encuentran aquellos sectores tradicionales con 
caracteristicas similares a las de los kogui; por otro lado un sector con mayor manejo 
de la realidad sociopolitica del pais, interesados en el desarrollo de una economia de 
mercado y ... el tercer sector ya no viste la manta tradicional, habla el castellano, y 
tiene costumbres e intereses netamente campesinos." 

25 Uribe (1988, 2006), Langebaeck (2005), and Ulloa (2004) have proposed a critique 
of this ethnographic representation. 

26 It reads in the original: "estando asentados dentro del resguardo modifican en algunos 
casos su position al vaiven de sus intereses. Frente al gobierno se presentan como 
indigenas y frente a los indigenas como blancos, . . . han tornado la representation de 
los indigenas frente a las instituciones del estado para favorecer sus intereses 
inmediatos, canalizando recursos que iban destinados a las comunidades indigenas 
para su propio beneficio". 

27 "condiciones de conflicto social, caracterizadas por su marginalidad y por la ausen- 
cia del Estado." 

28 "la apertura de estas zonas al desarrollo y la economia mundial." 

10 Spatiality and religion 

John Corrigan 

The investigation of spatiality and religion has a long history, from its roots in the 
ancient drafting of religious cosmologies, through early modern challenges to the- 
ologically inflected geographies, to recent cross-disciplinary experiments in theo- 
rizing religious space and place (Biittner 1973, 1980; Kong 1990, 2001, 2004; 
Park 1994; Knott 2005; Sopher 1967). Thinking about spatiality and religion, 
moreover, has evidenced, almost from its beginning, some measure of reflexivity 
about how it defines the phenomena it inventories and interprets. So, the 
Geography of Strabo, itself brimming with wonders incubated in religious imagi- 
nation, was at the same time critical of the ease with which other writers made 
geography the handmaiden of myth. This criticism fell especially on Strabo's 
Greek predecessor Megasthenes, whose accounts of India Strabo at times dis- 
missed as "going beyond all bounds to the realm of myth" (Strabo 1932: 15. 1. 57). 

Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and other cosmologies grounded 
space in the scriptures of those traditions. Writers representing those traditions 
sought correspondence between, on the one hand, the articulation and delineation 
of space in myth and, on the other, the environments - natural, social, emotional - 
in which people lived their daily lives. Trusting that spatial order was given in 
religion, they interpreted their everyday experience in such a way as to ensure its 
synonomy with that order. Medieval cosmographers - generally concerned in the 
West with demonstrating the reality of divine providence - sought to harmonize 
Aristotle's Meteorologica and other classical texts with biblical stories of creation. 
Vincentius of Beauvais's Christian Speculum Naturale (c. 1200), the tenth-century 
Muslim writings of Al-Muq-addasi, and the fledgling geographies of early 
medieval Celtic monastic academies, among many other efforts, advanced and 
complicated theological understandings of space. They accomplished this largely 
by mapping religious centers - places where holy persons had lived, miracles were 
performed, visions were realized, or religious truths revealed - and locating them 
in relation to heavenly territories and other places and events chronicled in scrip- 
tures or other holy writings. 

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, geography participated in the 
nascent scientific privileging of experience over revealed truth, and so moved 
steadily away from its previous role as a servant to religious dogma. Debates 
among various Christian groups about divine providence, the creation of the 

158 John Corrigan 

world, and teleology shaped geography in new ways, eventuating in Kant's defi- 
nition of a geography separate from theology. But those debates also coalesced as 
new, specifically Christian geographies that appeared throughout the period, 
including those that emphasized the missionary responsibility of the Christian 
churches. Gottlieb Kasche's Ideas about Religious Geography (1795) employed 
the term "geography of religion" to identify the comprehensive spatial mapping 
of Christianity and its competitors (Livingstone, 1994; Buttner 1980; Park 1994: 
10). Such geographies remained strongly theological in tone. 

With the eighteenth-century development of systematic philological study of 
ancient Christian documents, the experimentation with more ambitious means of 
scriptural exegesis, and the growing fascination among Europeans with the archae- 
ology of the eastern Mediterranean came the characteristic nineteenth-century 
emphasis on mapping biblical history. On the heels of Western colonial expansion, 
the "Holy Land" style of geography in the West was enlarged to enable mapping of 
the Asian subcontinent, North Africa, and, in turn, larger areas of those continental 
landmasses. Environmentalist explanations for religious belief subsequently 
became more prominent as geographers sought correspondences between local 
experience and items of religious faith. Landscape, climate, lifestyle (e.g., nomadic), 
and other factors were viewed in relation to religion, yielding the kinds of conclu- 
sions that say as much or more about the magisterial gaze of the European than 
about the people observed. The nineteenth-century French historian of religion and 
ideological gadfly Ernst Renan, at times strikingly reflexive in his writing and at 
others as transparently naive as his sometime collaborators, had his doubts about 
some such correspondences. Displaying the kind of critical perspective that histor- 
ically has emerged with some regularity to inform writing about religion and geog- 
raphy, he wondered about the claim that "Le desert est monotheiste," that is, the 
notion that monotheism was the logical response to the experience of smallness 
under the vast, starlit night sky of the desert. For Renan, "en verite, le desert a 
vehicule toutes sortes de religions: le chamanisme de Toungouses, le bouddhisme 
des Mongols aussi bien que le monotheisme musulman." By the end of the 
nineteenth century, in an intellectual climate increasingly shaped by evolution, 
natural law, materialism, and hardening canons of scientific inquiry, Western 
geographic survey of religion drifted from its role as argument for the superiority 
of Christianity (Sopher 1967; Livingstone 1994; Deffontaines 1948: 130). 

The study of religion and space developed through several phases during the 
twentieth century. As a number of scholars have argued, environmental determin- 
ism - religion as the product of geographical factors (and especially climatologi- 
cal and topological factors) - carried over in various ways from the nineteenth 
century (Kong 2004; Levine 1986). But the emergence of the comparative study 
of religion in Europe and America and particularly the growing interest in defin- 
ing religion began to redirect geographical analyses in important ways. Max 
Weber's emphasis on the manner in which religion shaped economic, social, and 
legal institutions was adopted as a guiding principle by many as they interpreted 
data relevant to religion and space. Two issues led the way among scholars 
researching religion and geography. The first was the question of what sorts of 

Spatiality and religion 159 

phenomena ought to be considered "religious." Pierre Deffontaines's Geographie 
et religions, published in 1948, Paul Fickeler's (1962) "Fundamental Questions in 
the Geography of Religion" and David Sopher's (1967) Geography of Religions 
together identified those elements that have been taken by most geographers since 
about mid-century as crucial to any understanding of religion. For Deffontaines, 
place of dwelling, demography, exploitation (agriculture, industrialization, animal 
life), movement (circulation of people, goods, the dead), and lifestyle (food, work, 
seasonal calendars) were crucial. Fickeler contributed the additional elements of 
ceremony and religious toleration. Sopher added human ecology, elaborated on 
the importance of pilgrimage, and drawing on historian of religion Mircea Eliade, 
advanced the central notion of sacred space. In none of these seminal works was 
religion viewed as simply either the product of environment or the motive for land- 
scape change. Some measure of give and take between religion as prime mover 
and religion as socially shaped was redolent in these studies and that spirit of 
dialectics has proven durable up to the present. Manfred Biittner's emphasis on the 
religious body - the organized cluster of practitioners of a religion - as an active 
mediating middle ground between the environment and religion encapsulated this 
aspect of previous research (Buttner 1980). 

Lily Kong, Chris Parks, Gregory Levine, Daniele Hervieu-Leger, and others have 
offered schemata for organizing the trends in research on religion and space since 
approximately the mid-twentieth century (Kong 2004; Parks 1994; Levine 1986; 
Hervieu-Leger 2002). Such overviews agree that the study of religion and space in 
recent years has become much more complex, and that such complexity is the prod- 
uct of more ambitiously interdisciplinary inquiry and the maturing of a pointed 
reflexivity on the part of researchers. What has been lacking in these otherwise thor- 
ough overviews - written by geographers - is familiarity with the kind of issues and 
problems that have driven debate within religious studies in the last few decades and 
in some cases eventuated in redefinition of religion. In other words, there is to a cer- 
tain extent a specialized discourse, represented in the discussions among scholars 
working in religious studies, that foregrounds some themes overlooked by research 
steeped in the agendas set out in geography journals. Consequently, while noticing 
ways in which research among religionists overlaps with that of geographers, it is 
worthwhile to explore outward from geographers' expertise with spatial analysis to 
the central concerns of religion scholars regarding space and place. 

Invisible worlds 

Central to the ongoing project of describing and explaining religion is investiga- 
tion of the invisible worlds imagined by believers. In their own ways, Dante 
Alighieri, the Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and the authors of The Tibetan 
Book of the Dead, among many other writers, were surveyors of landscapes made 
real to Christians, Mormons, Buddhists, and others through religious faith. There 
is a rich history of the geographic exploration of those invisible worlds, and for 
believers, religious history is as real as the history of the exploration of land- 
forms, peoples, languages, flora, societies, climates, and every other aspect of life 

160 John Corrigan 

on Earth. Religion conflates the visible and invisible, the world of the senses and 
the world of the imagination. Accordingly, the space that scholars study when 
they study religion is a territory that often is nondefmitive, protean, multivalent, 
temporally ambiguous, irregular, and by definition ultimately unchartable. 
Folded together, as it always is, with physical space (the space of geography), 
religious space can take the form of Atlantis, Mount Olympus, a mosque, a ceme- 
tery, a dining table, a nation, a social class, hell, heaven, or a jazz room. The 
investigation of space on the part of religion scholars consequently tends to a 
style of inquiry that focuses at every step on how the symbolization of space is 
related to the occupation of space. That is, the meaning of space itself is rarely 
transparent, and it is only through a process of gauging a community's investment 
in the imagined and invisible territories of religion that understanding of reli- 
giously inflected dynamics of everyday life - gender, nationality, ritual, ethnic- 
ity, politics, sexuality and so forth - is possible. Imagined worlds are built with 
materials drawn from the experience of earthly environment: for Eskimos, hell is 
a place of frigid darkness, while for Jews it is a place of intense heat and for 
Christians (a la Dante, who was exiled by the Pope) it is a territory marked by the 
diabolical inventiveness of community leaders, the caprice and meanness of 
demons who hold authority in the ordering of infernal society. By the same token, 
earthly political institutions, for example, can embody - according to a number 
of religions - the dynamics of dominating power epitomized in the collective his- 
tories of heavenly and hellish denizens, and the sensual and emotional aspects of 
the earthly experience of God can follow - as in Puritan conversion narratives - 
models observed in visions of the reign of God over the departed faithful. 

The study of space and religion, then, involves first of all a willingness to 
incorporate data drawn from the testimony of those who see, hear, taste, touch, 
and smell places that do not show up on the academic geographer's map of the 
world. Religious space is always polylocative, and among the places that might 
be associated one with the other are those that are made real in visions. The pious 
believe that persons travel back and forth between those places, and that spaces 
paradoxically can overlap or bleed one into the other, and be simultaneously 
inhabited. This religious mentalite rests upon a determination to challenge the 
authority of boundary, however that boundary might be warranted. One way of 
observing this notion is through examination of reports of human visits to super- 
natural worlds. The literary genre of the apocalypse, especially, is characterized 
by accounts of heavenly tours, and ascents and descents into the various super- 
natural realms. The Book of Dream Visions, a text known and cited by early 
Christians, and the canonical Revelation to John, for example, are replete with 
supernatural personages who, like the seer, travel from one place to another, 
involving themselves in the social and political life of both the supernatural and 
earthly provinces, and through their activity demonstrating the ease with which 
geographic distinctions can be subverted and even trivialized. As Leonard 
Thompson (1991: 117) observed in his attempts at mapping apocalyptic worlds, 
"boundaries are soft and permeable, open to passage. Therefore, distinctions 
between objects in the seer's world are not absolute and categorical; they are 

Spatiality and religion 161 

relative, with one object blending into the next." For the believer, the invisible 
world remains somewhat indeterminate and fluid, even in the midst of parochial 
"thick description" of its features. Its relationship to earthly geography, while 
embraced with absolute certainty by religionists, likewise is ambiguous. Finally, 
places on earth, for those invested in the religious ordering of the cosmos, are 
similarly conceived as both bounded (e.g., there is such a place as Mecca) and 
unbounded (i.e., Mecca is spatially present and encompassing to Muslims as they 
face it to pray) (Schimmel 1991). 


Mecca is the primary site for pilgrimage for Muslims. It represents events in the 
history of the religion's founder, the historical development of the religious com- 
munity, the aspirations of Muslims, and the linkage with the invisible world through 
its location opposite the heavenly Ka'aba. It is the point through which the world's 
axis passes. It is, in the words of historian of religion Mircea Eliade (1961), the loca- 
tion of the axis mundi, the spatial center from which the points of the compass extend 
and the temporal center which is both beginning and end. The sacrality of the Ka'aba 
at Mecca authorizes the ongoing theological project of Islam, as well as the social 
and political and jurisprudential aspects of Islamic life that flow from theological 
investigation. Mecca as a site of religious power is pre-eminent, stable, permanent, 
unchanging, and powerful. It is, at the same time, unstable, shifting, and ambiguous. 

The meaning of Mecca, like the meaning of all religious sites, is constructed in 
religious practice. Because of its commanding power, it is a place where persons 
wish to be, a place that can be relied upon to spiritually inform and nourish in the 
most profound ways. But, as Thomas Tweed (2006: 123) recently has written, 
"religions are not only about being in place but also moving across." Religions 
are constructed and maintained through simultaneous emphases on the power of 
bounded place and the importance, the necessity, of transgressing boundaries. 
The meaning of Mecca emerges through the interplay of two seemingly conflict- 
ing processes: the ongoing verification of the site as a fixed center of power, and 
the devotional activity of Muslims whose experience of Mecca is as much the 
experience of movement across boundaries - national, natural, social, ethnic, 
gendered - as it is the emotionally and intellectually certain embrace of a 
bounded geographical point. In short, the transgressive act of pilgrimage is cru- 
cial to making meaning of Mecca. The experience of Mecca is the experience of 
arriving and staying long enough to see, smell, touch, hear, and taste it, and in so 
doing to submit to its authority. At the same time it is the experience of leaving 
one's home, one's nation, one's continent; crossing mountains and seas; stepping 
outside the world of one's ethnicity to collaborate with persons of other ethnici- 
ties; abandoning the landscape of class to mingle with others who have done the 
same; trade gender segregation for some measure of joint worship in the vicinity 
of Mecca; allow lines marking political difference to blur; surrender familiar bod- 
ily habits of eating, sleeping, and moving; and, for many, cross boundaries defin- 
ing sectarian debate. At its most obvious, pilgrimage is travel from one place to 

162 John Corrigan 

another. Considered in its complexity, it is a multilayered ritual of confirming the 
sacredness of a place through a process of subverting, through physical travel to 
that place, the very idea of boundary that undergirds the authority of place. For a 
pilgrim, the experience of being in Mecca is intertwined with the experience of 
getting there and returning. Consequently, the experience of Mecca radiates 
across all of the landscapes that the traveler has traversed in order to arrive at the 
destination. Mecca consequently is present to the pilgrim not just in the act of 
facing east during prayer, but through immersion in the social, ethnic, gender, 
political, and national landscapes that contextualize and define everyday life. 
Theologically mapped as the flowing of landscapes one into the other, polyloca- 
tiveness is a central feature of religious life (Mary 2002). 

The devotional exercise of pilgrimage - whether to Mecca, Lourdes, Guadalupe, 
or Mount Kailash in Tibet - illustrates something of the manner in which spatial 
ambiguity and spatial definitiveness cooperate in the workings of the religious 
imagination. Not everyone goes on pilgrimage, however. Most religious persons do 
not visit sacred sites in Arabia, or Mexico, or Tibet, or other places, nor do they 
engage much in travel to less esteemed shrines located closer to the communities 
they inhabit. Many religious persons, however, partake of a belief system that situ- 
ates them in relation to idealized pasts or expected futures. The obvious instancing 
of the latter includes heaven, hell, purgatory, or other landscapes of the afterlife 
similar to those already mentioned above. The former - the memory of what has 
gone before, the places, people, societies, material culture, and so forth - can be 
understood more precisely with reference to migration. 

Religion deploys a sophisticated rhetoric in attracting adherents and in keeping 
them as members of the community of believers. A central component of that rhet- 
oric is its appeal to the ancient origins of the religion. Religions have cosmogonies 
- stories about the creation of the world - that are crafted in ways to illustrate the 
conformity of religious practice with patterns of thought and action characteristic 
of the earliest living persons and with the divinities who oversaw their lives. 
Believers, through their participation in rituals and other devotional performances, 
remember that terrifically distant and receding past, including all of the various 
landscapes of the past, and seek to recreate them in the present. Religion is about 
the ongoing return to the past (because to forget the past is to lose faith). And the 
impulse to return is manifest in religion in many ways. While we might take emu- 
lation of the lives of ancient prophets and teachers as a crucial category for recov- 
ery of the past, we ought also to appreciate the manner in which the past is 
memorialized through more recent events, and especially how the fact of migra- 
tion, which has been a central aspect of religion throughout its history, has proven 
instrumental in shaping religious sensibility and directing religious devotion. 


The study of religion and space in the West has long noticed the scattering of 
Jews. This diaspora has contributed importantly to the Jewish mythologization of 
areas of the eastern Mediterranean as sacred ground. It has urged upon Jews a 

Spatiality and religion 163 

diligence in remembering the place from which they were dispersed and kindled 
imagination and desire to enrich the meanings of those places through theologi- 
cal reflection, imaginative writing, and the invention and refinement of religious 
performances. Jews, like other religious groups, have lived in diaspora, and that 
experience, while not one that a person might choose, has proven useful in creat- 
ing an understanding of place thick with religious meaning. 

Migration, whether it is forced, as in the case of the Jews, or as migration that 
takes place with some measure of assent on the part of the migrants, has been cru- 
cial to the historical development of religion. The mental gymnastic of folding 
spaces one into another that is characteristic of religious conceptualizations of 
reality has emerged from the experience of migration as much as it has developed 
out of thoughtfulness about the cosmic ordering of visible and invisible worlds, 
the locations of the axes mundi, and the ambiguity of borders. So important is it 
to the vitality of religious life, in fact, that religious communities have on occasion 
invested in memories of migrations from imaginary elsewheres. Chantal Saint- 
Blancat (2002: 138-9), remarking on that phenomenon, pointedly explained that 
such situations evidence that "mobility, far from being something to be suffered, 
is managed as a resource." Diaspora is a "place of tensions, of continuous re- 
adjustments, a space of fragmentations and of unifying processes, symbolically 
as well as on the level of social practices." 

Religion renders deterritorialization as reterritorialization. In so doing, it estab- 
lishes frameworks for maintaining identity and for defending theological claims 
for cosmic order and moral reckoning. As Daniele Hervieu-Leger has observed, 
religion exploits the creative opportunity for interrelating "detachment from con- 
crete territorial inscription, brought about by migration, and mobilization of an 
idealized territoriality that provides the raw material for reconstructing identity" 
(2002: 104). There are a number of scholarly investigations of this process in 
modernity that stress the paradox of the migratory experience as represented in 
religious mythology and devotional practice (Saint-Blancat 2002; Dianteill 2002; 
Mary 2002; Levitt 2004). We should remember, however, that migration is not 
merely an artifact of modernity. It is - as in the case of the Jews - a long-standing 
fact of religious, ethnic, and national history. And religions have over many cen- 
turies drawn upon sacred geographies to establish new understandings of space 
as their adherents migrated from one territory to another. 

Reterritorialization, when managed primarily through appeal to a religious 
worldview, frequently can involve the construction of plural religious identities. 
Robert Orsi, in analyzing the emergence of an Italian-American Catholic com- 
munity in Harlem in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, detailed the 
ways in which an assortment of identities, interwoven under the umbrella of reli- 
gion, took shape among immigrants through the utilization of religious practice. 
Those identities included gender, nation, family, neighborhood, class, language, 
and denomination, among others. Narrating the immigration of Italian Catholics 
to New York, and interpreting their efforts to come to terms with life in a new 
place, Orsi noted how the transitional process was advanced through immigrants' 
adaptation of an Italian religious festival celebrating the Virgin Mary. 

164 John Corrigan 

Characterized by bold displays of piety, the annual festa in Italian Harlem fea- 
tured the theme of healing. During the period of the festa, members of the com- 
munity would seek healing from the Virgin, and, in bold displays of piety, signal 
their devotion to God and Mary as well as to the community, family, gender roles, 
the old country, and neighborhood, among other things. They also registered their 
resistance to what they believed was antithetical to their well-being, and perhaps 
most importantly in this regard, to the authority of the Catholic hierarchy in 
America, who were embarrassed by the persistence of a decidedly local Italian 
cast to the Catholicism of the immigrants in Harlem. Those displays included acts 
of humiliation such as travelling a church aisle on one's knees or with one's 
tongue on the floor, as well as the ritual deployment in church of wax body parts 
resembling those for which the supplicant sought healing. The sacred space of the 
church served as a microcosm for the immigrant society as whole: the healing of 
wounds (physical and emotional), the remembrance of the past, the reaffirmation 
of the places of women and men in society, the centrality of the family, and so 
forth - all of these identities were revivified, adapted, and resolved each year at 
the festa. Crucial to understanding the nature of the festival is the fact that the 
entire undertaking was predicated on participants' awareness of their inbetween- 
ness in the American setting. Catholic but at odds with American Catholic 
leaders, Italian but living in America, committed to traditional family structures 
but forced to make peace with different family models, seeking healing but cul- 
tivating their woundedness - those persons imagined themselves as in two places 
at once, and, aided by religion, traveled conceptually between those two places 
and the identities associated with them (Orsi 1985). 

Similar investigations of the religion of immigrants to the United States have 
detailed the capability of religion to represent space in complex ways, and, espe- 
cially, to massage it conceptually in the service of adapting identity. Kristy 
Nabhan- Warren's study of Marian apparitions among Mexican Americans and 
Luis Leon's tracking of the development of bilocality in devotions to the Virgin 
of Guadalupe (i.e., Mexico City and Los Angeles) represent the current direction 
on scholarship concerned with religion and migration in their focus on the reli- 
gious cultivation of the haunted life. That haunting takes place largely as the out- 
come of the simultaneous affirmation of the location of sacred space and the 
dissolution of the boundaries that separate it from other places. In the case of 
Mexican American Catholics in Los Angeles, that process was represented in 
1999 by the display in Los Angeles of the cape of Juan Diego (to whom the 
Virgin appeared in 153 1), upon which the Virgin's image had been miraculously 
emblazoned (Nabhan- Warren 2005; Leon 2004). 


Sacred space is kept sacred through ritual. Ritual delineates sacred space and at 
the same time provides for its portability and malleability. Ritual performances, 
as Victor Turner (1969) explained, can exploit the valences of space in such a 

Spatiality and religion 165 

way as to reverse the social landscapes of class, status, gender, office, and other 
structural elements of social order. Ritual likewise can transmogrify spaces both 
large and small through its capability to transplant objects, bodies, light, sound, 
and community from one location to another. Whether we are speaking of the 
wine inside a chalice becoming blood in Christian ritual, or a shaman returning 
from the invisible world with a soul that had drifted from its corporeal body, or 
the real linkage of a holy Muslim personage with his drawn image, ritual dena- 
tures, mutates, and restyles space to permit such feats. Through prayers, bodily 
motions, tears, silence, sexual relations, and by a multitude of other means, ritual 
sacralizes landscapes of various scales and locates them with reference to a 
human body, a community, or an axis mundi. The practice of piety among 
English Puritans - a ritual venture that encompassed a wide range of everyday 
life - rearranged, as Max Weber famously argued in his theorizing about the 
emergence of capitalism, the economic landscape. Hindu ritual bathing in the 
Ganges River valorizes the lives of beggars and the Hindu spring festival of Holi, 
in which participants decorate each other with colored powders and waters, fea- 
tures the wholesale ritualized reversal of orders of caste, gender, social status, and 
age. Ritual war, in the form of Christian crusade or Muslim jihad or Zen-inflected 
samurai warfare, historically has demonstrated its capability (beyond the obvi- 
ous) to remake landscape through its reinvention of the relation of spaces to the 
axis mundi, be it Rome, Mecca, or Nippon. 

The susceptibility of landscape to change through religious ritual is grounded 
in respect for the power of the sacred. Religion is predicated on belief in the 
volatility and danger of the sacred and, equally, on trust in the efficacy of ritual 
to make possible productive contact with the sacred, to establish territory on 
which encounter with the sacred can be pursued in relative safety. Places of con- 
tact with the sacred - whether that contact be in the form of a felt connection to 
a deity, saint, prophet, spirit, force, avatar, holy animal, or other divine power - 
are ritually bounded and constantly policed for territorial leakage. Ritual creates 
a means by which persons can cross the threshold between profane or secular 
space and sacred space. Ritual removes persons from their familiar landscapes 
of status, class, gender, ethnicity, and so forth and prepares them for encounter 
with awful power. Ritual by the same token reclothes persons in identity when 
they leave a sacred site, making possible the return to participation in familiar 
landscapes. The French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep (1960) referred to 
such rituals as rituals of separation (from the everyday world) and rituals of 
reaggregation (to the everyday world). What is especially important in the per- 
formance of ritual, however, is its capability to define the territory where the 
sacred dwells. That might be a church or a mosque or synagogue or temple. It 
might be a shrine or a place associated with an event narrated by scriptures. It 
might be a human body or a nation. Ritual, as it is performed over and over 
again, confirms the presence of the sacred in space, and it does so through 
rehearsal of the boundaries marking that space. Only in this way, through con- 
stant attention to the location of the sacred in concrete landscapes, only on this 

166 John Corrigan 

foundation, can religion begin its play with the porosity of borders, the ambiguity 
of location, and the paradoxical conjoining of distinct, separate territories. 


In 1774, St Alphonsus Maria de'Ligouri was at the bedside of the dying Pope 
Clement XIV. According to accounts, he was also in his cell, in a place four days 
travel away. The twentieth-century Hindu saint Sathya Sai Baba likewise 
bilocated, according to reports of his followers. So also, according to religious 
writers, have Azimia Sufis, Native American shamans, and Tibetan Buddhists. 
The sixth-century pillar hermit Symeon the Younger, in between demonstrations 
of raising the dead, was occasionally in two places at the same time. Jesus Christ, 
in Roman Catholic theology, polylocates every day through his presence in the 
Eucharist as that ritual is performed simultaneously in a plethora of settings glob- 
ally dispersed. The fourteenth-century aspiring Christian physicist Antonius 
Andreae was certain enough of human bilocation that he penned a theologically 
tinctured tract defending it (Kirschner 1984; Gensler 1999). 

Guiding the movement of the human body through territory has long been one 
of the most important roles of religion. Religion creates body as territory and ref- 
erences the body to its environments. For many religions, the body, first of all, is 
a composite, a dyad at the least, of a corporeal self and an invisible self or soul. 
Religion accordingly orients the body not only to the physical world, and all of 
the landscapes - political, social, ethnic, and so forth - that frame it, but also to 
the world hidden from ordinary consciousness, the world of angels and demons, 
gods and spirits. In most cases, religion constructs bodies in a way that situates 
them at the juncture of two realities, one apparent through the testimony of 
bodily senses and one made real in visions. This ambiguity is present as well in 
religious concerns for the body as the repository of the sacred, or as a kind of 
reservoir of sacred power. Physical space in such instances is defined by the con- 
tagion of the sacred as it extends from one body to the next. This can happen 
while a person is still alive - the healing touch of a shaman or other religious 
authority (e.g., "the king's touch" in medieval Europe) which extrapolates the 
miracle-worker's body into the bodies of others - as well as after a person dies 
and the body, as relic, remains powerfully charged. The relic of a holy person 
accordingly changes the bodies of those with which it comes into contact in phys- 
ical space. In Catholicism, the placing of a relic on a table transforms the table 
into an altar. Buddhist temples and stupas are built around relics believed to 
imbue the site with sacred power. A hair from the beard of Muhammad at the 
Topkapi Palace in Istanbul calls for the recitation of the Koran there, uninter- 
rupted and incessant, a ritual mapping of the overlap between the visible and 
invisible worlds, between the body that was once alive and words spoken by God. 
Touching the bone of long-dead saint, or even gazing upon it, can heal the most 
debilitated and sickly bodies of believers. 

Relics, which can be purchased in online shops and at shrines, as well as on a 
thriving black market (since the Middle Ages) represent the commodification of 

Spatiality and religion 167 

the body, a process advanced at key moments by religion. Religion, for example, 
cooperated greatly in creating the socio-economic landscape of the slave trade, 
offering scriptural precedent and theological justifications for human chattel. The 
pro-slavery arguments of religious leaders in the American South were drenched 
in religious rhetoric. Old Testament texts narrate numerous accounts of Jewish 
enslavement of other peoples, including divine collaboration in that. Muhammad 
took slaves, and Islam institutionalized the practice, with many hadith subse- 
quently addressing the sale and treatment of slaves. Such hadith undergirded the 
vast slave trade of Islamic empires, an enterprise that remade the social and 
economic landscapes of Africa, Asia, and the eastern Mediterranean. 

Slavery developed with particular regard to the construction of race, a process 
significantly aided by religion. Religious scriptures typically make much of dif- 
ferences between holy peoples and unholy peoples. Holy peoples often can be 
identified by their bodies, which bear the signs of ethnic or racial distinctiveness, 
and, moreover, are decorated and marked (e.g., circumcision, tattoos, tonsure) in 
ways that place them within a certain community or demographic. Unholy peo- 
ples manifest in their bodies the signs of their unholiness, whether it be behav- 
iorally (e.g., unbridled lust), or through the features of the body, such as skin 
color, the shapes of the head, nose, lips, height, hair, and so forth. Religious texts 
are sometimes explicit about such things, and in the hands of ambitious inter- 
preters, those texts can be coaxed into more sweeping and absolute statements 
about the connection between race and holiness - or, as in the case of pro- 
slavery argumentation, between unholiness and race. The slave trade in the 
Americas, which was built on the forced migration of Africans across the 
Atlantic, was crucial to the colonial and postcolonial social organization of much 
of the region. The interdependent landscapes of economics, politics, race, and 
class, as well as human relationships with the physical environment, were 
grounded in religious understandings of the human body. 

Religious ideas about the human body frequently are coordinated with thinking 
about the nature of society. With anthropologist Mary Douglas (1982), we might 
think of the two bodies, one social and one the human body, both of which are 
defined religiously and both of which are subject to the kind of porous-border syn- 
drome that characterizes all religious imagining of place. So, as Douglas argues, 
in communities where, for example, migration, demographic change, or politics 
have upset social equilibrium and led to a sense of deterioration of the familiar 
boundaries of society, that change will be mirrored in thinking about the body. 
Religious symbology applied to the body will in such instances advance local 
understanding about what the body is, how it functions, and whether it is healthy 
or sick, and in social environments where there is a sense of breached boundaries, 
the body will be imagined as breached as well. Witchcraft fears - which largely 
amount to concern that demons have crossed the borders of the body, entered it, 
and begun to take control of it - thus arise in communities undergoing traumatic 
social change. Exorcisms of demons from the body are performances of anxiety 
about social problems and wishes for exorcism of the "social body" alongside the 
human (Douglas 1982). The Communist witch hunts in the United States in the 

168 John Corrigan 

1950s thus, not surprisingly, took place alongside the rise in popularity of the 
Reverend Billy Graham, who was outspoken in his claims about the need for per- 
sons to be exorcized of evil demons. The visible and invisible worlds of religion 
in this way converged simultaneously in the social landscape and the body. 

Material culture 

Religion marks space most effectively through its investments in the built envi- 
ronment. Houses of worship are the most easily recognized markers of sacred 
space. In their design, materials, siting, and decoration define power, society, 
economy and commerce, gender, class, aesthetics, and a number of other key 
structural aspects of culture. Houses of worship are condensed symbols of reli- 
gious understandings of space and they represent the power of religion in deter- 
mining culture. A church or temple or mosque is always a center, a point, like the 
axis mundi, from which the directions of the compass are reckoned. It is also a 
conduit to the invisible world, which typically is located directly above it, in the 
heavens, and to which the architecture often calls attention, in the form of an ele- 
vated nave or sanctuary or ceiling decoration. A house of worship, as repository 
of the sacred, cannot be entered except with ritual precaution, because the power 
of the sacred is so overwhelming within it. Threshold ablutions, such as washing 
in a fountain or sprinkling holy water on one's person, typically fulfill this 
requirement. By the same token, the power of the sacred that is located within a 
house of worship must be kept bounded, and so the borders of the site are dili- 
gently policed to prevent leakage of the sacred. Leaving a house of worship thus 
is also a ritual undertaking and often includes a "rite of reaggregation" as persons 
cross the boundary back into their everyday life. It would be a mistake, however, 
to assume that the built environment of religion represents merely an attempt to 
separate the sacred from everyday life. Religious buildings in fact frame ritual 
performances that reinforce awareness of the regimes of power that organize life 
outside the cathedral. Seating arrangements, for example, can remind worship- 
pers of class difference (the best seats reserved for those of highest social status), 
gender distinctions (women worship behind a curtain, from the back rows, or 
away from the main room in certain synagogues and mosques), and race (African 
Americans sat in the cold choirs of churches where whites predominated). 

Material culture in the form of dress is an important element in the religious 
demarcation of space. Religious regulations regarding dress include prescriptions 
for styles of clothing that must be worn to a house of worship or during other reli- 
gious rituals. More importantly, dress codes grounded in religious views of the 
world serve as means by which awareness of the difference between the sacred 
and secular is remembered and enhanced. When a Muslim woman navigates the 
secular space of the marketplace or street she carries with her, in the form of 
dress, her boundaries of self, family, worship community, and membership in 
invisible communions. She marks her body with a scarf or hijab, and in so doing, 
she remembers, and announces, even as she moves about, that her body is located 
in a certain place. That place is defined by family, fellow believers, religious 

Spatiality and religion 169 

professionals, and inhabitants of a supernatural domain. There is contiguity with 
all of those persons just as there is contiguity with the local mosque and Mecca, 
in spite of the fact that with each step she might put more physical distance 
between herself and the people and places, smells and sounds, that comprise the 
familiar environments of her religious life. Religious dress distinguishes her, 
insulates her, from contact with the profane or secular world. The same is true of 
monks, in Asian religious traditions as in Western. Devotees of Krishna, known 
to westerners for their fundraising in public places, do not, in religious terms, 
inhabit that public place. Their dress (as well as their music, which materially 
also carves out sacred space for them in various settings) keeps them joined to a 
holy fellowship of other devotees who might be in that moment at other airports 
or train stations, and in spite of the appearance of physical distance between 
them, they remain joined in community. Dress, the borders of the body, defines 
space by separating the person from the local social environment. At the same 
time, as is almost always the case in religious figurings of space, it represents 
believers' trust that their own bodies in fact are not separated from those of other 
believers, regardless of the physical distance between them. Dress is boundary 
that confines and sequesters, and simultaneously renders distinctions ambiguous. 
Dress facilitates bilocation. 

Music makes space a religious place, and when it can be heard outside the 
house of worship it draws that space inside the boundary that distinguishes sacred 
from secular. Food or the noticeable absence of food also makes space religious. 
A table set with plates of roasted eggs and chicken wings, celery, horseradish and 
an apple-nut mixture is a seder, a Jewish religious dinner eaten on Passover. The 
food represents environments significant in Jewish history, and above all the 
enslavement of the Jews in Egypt and their escape from that. The performance of 
the seder arranges an assortment of places - Egypt, Israel, the antebellum 
American South, Nazi Germany, contemporary sites of anti-Semitism or geno- 
cide - in a pattern of connectedness and places the individual in the midst of that 
conglomeration. Seder, like much other religious material culture, also plays 
freely with scale, juxtaposing place defined by family at a table with a global 
environment of social oppression, while at the same time that it affirms those 
spaces as mutually constitutive. Material culture in other modes often operates in 
similar fashion, whether it be the sight of a Kwakwaka'wakw totem pole, the 
smell of incense in an Orthodox church, the sensation of Ganges River water on 
the skin, or some other material medium. 

Religious practice 

Religious space most often is construed as space that bears the markings of insti- 
tutional religious life: churches and other houses of worship, the presence of per- 
sons dressed in religious vestments, the performance of traditional ceremonies, 
and assorted representations of ecclesiastical power vis-a-vis other institutions. 
The study of religion and space accordingly has tended in the past to orient itself 
to spatiality in such settings. As religious studies has coalesced as an area of 

170 John Corrigan 

humanistic inquiry outside the gravitational pull of theological and ecclesiastical 
discourses, however, it has found other manifestations of religious life to be as rich 
and as complex, and as powerful in their capability to generate and reinforce 
meaning, as more well-known formal, institutional forms. Once studied under the 
rubric of "popular religion" - a term meant to suggest a mode of religious life 
differentiated from that supervised by formal, elite religion - religious perform- 
ances in everyday life now are investigated as "lived religion" or "religious prac- 
tice." This refocusing of research has brought with it new conceptualizations of 
how religion constructs place and how religion is related to the environments that 
contextualize persons' lives. The religious landscape in general looks different 
because of the turn towards lived religion, and the charting of that landscape, while 
begun in some ways, remains largely an agendum on the horizon of scholarship. 

Some of the more promising avenues of analysis of lived religion and space 
have to do with inquiries into construction of identity through the combining of 
attributes drawn from a range of religious backgrounds. Lived religion emerges 
and flourishes largely through the exercise of personal taste, innovation, cultural 
borrowing, and the blending of seemingly disparate items of religious thought 
and practice. It manifests as a negotiation between the technologies of piety 
offered by religious traditions, and the needs and imaginations of individuals. In 
places where there is considerable plurality in religious life - where there is a 
fairly broad range of options available to religiously inclined persons - we find 
in lived religion a reflection of personal attempts to craft religious life in a way 
that represents a connection to a range of cultural and religious backgrounds. In 
North America and Western Europe, or other places where migration has been 
ongoing and profound, lived religion frequently is grounded in the ideas and prac- 
tices of a Christian denomination, but can include as well components drawn 
from folk culture, Native religions, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and indigenous 
African traditions, as well as from astrology, "vegetarianism," civil religion, and 
occult healing traditions. The integration of these components relies on personal 
ingenuity. Once integration is accomplished, personal identity, as reflected in the 
amalgamation of a number of religio-cultural markers, will reflect the competi- 
tion and the collaboration between religious worldviews in a particular place. 
Lived religion of this sort, which tends to be personal or manifest only in small 
groups, cuts out turf all its own. But because that turf is comprised largely of 
material imported from a range of places, lived religion implicitly recognizes the 
authority of other religious places, whether place is defined as community, 
denomination, or nation. 

Sometimes lived religion remains embedded securely in a single tradition, but 
plays creatively on the borders of that tradition. At other times, it is profoundly syn- 
cretistic, and especially so in places where there has been frequent and intense con- 
tact between traditions. In Vietnam, Cao Dai began in the early twentieth century 
as an amalgam of elements drawn from Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, 
Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and indigenous Vietnamese religions. 
Alongside holy personages associated with these traditions, Cao Dai places as 
saints others representing an even broader array of backgrounds: Pericles, Julius 

Spatiality and religion 171 

Caesar, Joan of Arc, the French novelist Victor Hugo (recalling the French occu- 
pation of Indo-China), the sixteenth-century Vietnamese poet Trangh Tinh, the 
Chinese poet Li Bo, and the Russian writer Leon Tolstoy. The main temple at Tay 
Ninh, where images of these persons are displayed, incorporates architectural fea- 
tures as diverse as Muslim turrets, Chinese pagodas, European Catholic-style 
stained-glass windows, interior decoration reminiscent of the creations of Antoni 
Gaudi, and an artistic rendering of the Eye of Providence, an ancient symbol that 
can also be seen in the triangular tip of the pyramid on the US paper dollar. 
Emerging as lived religion in a crossroads place, Cao Dai grew in popularity and 
soon took on institutional form, adopting a hierarchical ecclesiastical structure 
modeled on that of the Roman Catholic Church, including the office of Pope. That 
fact does not mean that Cao Dai is no longer lived religion. Rather, it indicates that 
human inventiveness is sometimes so effective in crafting a religious landscape 
through borrowing and recombining that the end product, designed to serve the 
needs of a single person (originally Ngo Van Chieu), can hold appeal for others 
whose lives have been shaped by similarly intersecting environments. 

The state 

Cao Dai, for all of its mingling of cultural traditions and invoking of places around 
the world, is a strongly nationalistic religion. Indeed, religion has a way of devel- 
oping in conjunction with national identity so that a national landscape often is 
contoured in explicitly religious ways. In modernity, and particularly in postcolo- 
nial environments, the dividing of space into nations is frequently accomplished 
through the utilization of religious symbology. In certain parts of the world, Islam, 
which as a strongly jurisprudential religion is often closely intertwined with state 
legal systems, identifies a nation as religious space. In certain instances the state 
is regarded more explicitly and profoundly as a religious entity, as in the case of 
Japan, where State Shinto (officially until the Japanese surrender in 1945) identi- 
fied the emperor as a direct descendant of, and high priest in service to, the god- 
dess Amaterasu, who created the land and people of Japan. Emperors, kings, and 
queens elsewhere, in tribal settings as well as in imperial settings, long have been 
considered rulers by divine right, and embodiments of good who model that in 
their virtuous behavior. To declare oneself an adherent of the religion of such a 
place is to declare oneself a member of the state, and to practice religion is to prac- 
tice civic virtue. State religion can also incorporate ethnicity, so that to declare 
oneself a member of an ethnic group can, in some places, locate oneself with 
respect to national citizenship and religion as well. So, for example, to self- 
identify as Pashtun is, in most cases, to identify as Muslim and a citizen of 
Afghanistan, or in the case of a Kalmyk, a Tibetan Buddhist citizen of Kalmykia. 
International politics, as the early twenty-first century has amply illustrated, 
accordingly can be heavily laden with religious freight, and particularly so when 
there is correspondence among race/ethnicity, nationality, and religion. 

The emergence in the last 300 years of the secular state in certain ways simpli- 
fied relations between states, stripping out of negotiations about the occupation of 

172 John Corrigan 

territory emotionally rich issues related to religious practice. This is not to say that 
religion did not continue to influence the international political landscape, but its 
influence tended to be oblique rather than direct. Nevertheless the intersection of 
religion with other environments (social, economic) within a region over time 
imbues those other environments with traces of the religious worldview, so that 
even when state religion is deauthorized, other landscapes within the nation can 
carry forward key aspects of religious tradition. Such has been the case in modern 
Turkey, where the legacy of the Ottoman millet system, which segregated the pop- 
ulation (into millets) on religious grounds, exercised a determinative influence 
over Turkish conceptions of nationalism after the formal secularization of the 
state, with one result being the difficulty of recognizing ethnic difference, and 
especially the Kurds (Cagaptay 2006). 

Time and memory 

Space exists in time. One of the most influential theorists of religion, Mircea 
Eliade (1961), took time and space together in his influential formulations of 
"sacred time" and "sacred space." While recent research has vigorously pursued 
the investigation of religion in relation to space, there has been little attempt to 
join such inquiry to a consideration of the temporal axis. Such an undertaking 
ought to yield important insights, as for example, in analysis of the cemetery as 
place constructed out of temporal memes - the past, the present, eternity - that 
are inseparable from the cultural meanings of cemetery as hallowed ground and 
religious place. Memory, as one aspect of the temporal axis of analysis, likewise 
is conjoined with the construction of place. Coming to terms with the past is a 
part of building a landscape, even if that remembering is willfully traded for 
forgetting. Imagining the future likewise is crucial to the arrangement of sacred 
space, to the production of religious environments as part of the larger work of 
culture. The cutting edge of the study of religion and space should incorporate to 
an increasing extent analysis of time alongside space. The conceptual apparatus 
for that project is not yet refined, nor is the electronic technology - particularly 
in the form of temporally enabled GIS - that might be applied to the investiga- 
tion of religious landscape in time, diachronically considered. Such an approach 
would have to be decidedly ecological in its balancing of spatial analysis with 
attention to timeframe in order to succeed. That is, it will have to recognize that 
study of religious space in time will have to proceed in the same way that the 
study of organisms and their natural environments is organized: by principles of 
interpenetration, symbiosis, cascade, and mutually constitutive realities. 
Landscape is timescape, something religion has always known. The polylocative 
is also the polychrome. 

11 The cultural production of space 
in colonial Latin America 

From visualizing difference to the 
circulation of knowledge 

Mariselle Melendez 

There are moreover in that island which I said above was called 
Hispaniola, fine, high mountains, broad stretches of country, forests, 
and extremely fruitful field excellently adapted for sowing, grazing, and 
building dwelling houses. The convenience and superiority of the har- 
bors in this island, and its wealth in rivers, joined with wholesomeness 
for man, is such as to surpass belief unless one has seen them. The trees, 
coverage, and fruits of this island are very different from those of Juana. 
Besides, this Hispaniola is rich in various kinds of spice and in gold and 
in mines. 

These are the words of Christopher Columbus found in a letter addressed to Luis de 
Santangel (official of the Crown of Aragon) on 15 February 1493 announcing the 
so-called "discovery" of the "New World." This letter, which circulated around 
Europe as the only printed official announcement of Columbus' achievements on 
behalf of the Spanish crown, marked the beginning of the depiction of America to 
the rest of the world as an entity full of riches now available for material consump- 
tion. 1 From this point on, America would be imagined, reinvented, and rewritten as 
a space full of economic, religious, and cultural possibilities. Space as marked by 
abundance, marvel, and resemblance was to become an ubiquitous rhetorical theme 
in narratives as well as visual renditions regarding the arrival of the Spanish to the 
New World, as demonstrated in the first woodcut prints that accompanied this offi- 
cial letter announcing the event (see Figure 11.1). As Guillaume-Thomas-Francois 
Raynal pointed out in his Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and 
Trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies, 

No event has been so interesting to mankind in general, and to the inhabi- 
tants of Europe in particular, as the discovery of the New World and the 
passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope. It gave rise to a revolution in 
the commerce, and in the power of nations; and in the manners, industry, 
and government of the whole world. At this period, new connections were 
formed by the inhabitants of the most distant regions, for the supply of 
wants they had never before experienced. 

(1776: I. I) 2 

174 Mariselle Melendez 

Figure 11.1 Woodcut prints from Epistola de insulis in mari Indico nuper inuentes (1494). 

Note the representation of abundance by the number of buildings, trees, and 
people. Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of 
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

In this global transformation, or as he called it, "revolution" of the world, space 
came to be a crucial point of departure from which to understand and explain how 
human and physical geography converged for the sake of Spanish knowledge and 

Space as a concept and a theoretical discursive tool has long played a major role in 
colonial studies. Space as a sign of containment, mobility, cultural identity, gender, 

Cultural production of space 175 

corporeal expression, mnemonic device, and collective and individual perception has 
been an indisputably productive way to examine social and gender relations, histori- 
cal circumstances, and cultural differences. The perception of space becomes part of 
a process in which an individual is able to define, construct, imagine, or relate to the 
particular area in which she or he belongs or positions herself or himself. 

For scholars in the field of colonial Latin American studies, space has been a 
useful tool to examine the diverse representations that distinguished the encounter 
between European and native indigenous societies. Specifically, geography has 
always been at the center of the many narratives and visual representations pub- 
lished about the "New World." For chroniclers, cosmographers, cartographers, 
religious and political authorities, America became a geographical entity open to 
multiple and, many times, contradictory interpretations, as attested by its several 
names: Indies, New World, and America. As the Mexican scholar Edmundo 
O' Gorman made clear in 1958, to think geographically about America implied 
thinking about an idea that deeply transformed the manner in which Europe 
envisioned the world. 3 

Literary scholars have benefited greatly from the work of critical geographers 
who have discussed the implications of the role of space as a tool to understand 
culture, politics, and society in general. Scholars in the field of Latin American 
colonial studies, for instance, have devoted particular attention to the issue of 
space as it pertained to the new geographies unveiled by the discovery and colo- 
nization. Influenced by the works of J. B. Harley in particular, these studies have 
paid close attention to the dynamic and critical nature of maps as they are to be 
considered powerful tools crucial to the construction of that "new" physical real- 
ity of what they called America. Geographical narratives and cartography consti- 
tuted useful tools to examine how spaces as well as places were constructed by 
becoming part of rhetorical discourses aimed to persuade, manipulate, and 
impose specific cultural, religious, or political values. 4 

Cultural geography as influenced by poststructuralism impacted the work of 
literary scholars, who then began to focus on the cultural history of regions as 
dynamic processes that complicated the colonial exchanges between diverse 
groups in the New World. Colonial spaces such as the city, the plaza, the church, 
the convent, and the cofradias (brotherhoods) became topics of critical discus- 
sions in which asymmetrical relationships of power as well as hybrid forms of 
expression converged. Other literary critics, influenced by poststructuralist 
geographers, critically examined the manner in which spaces are visually and 
discursively constructed as well as epistemologically created in Spanish texts 
dealing with the colonial Americas. 5 To a lesser extent, literary scholars have 
explored how indigenous populations, Spanish American Creoles, African pop- 
ulations and other members of casta groups, and women also constructed their 
own territorialities and local spaces as cultural, religious, and political forms of 
expression. The relevance of this approach relies on offering a broader view of 
what colonialism as a spatial phenomenon entailed for diverse sectors of the 
population who occupied what Mary Louise Pratt referred to as "contact zones" 
(1992: 4). 6 Although these works have not solely focused on spatial issues, they 

176 Mariselle Melendez 

still offer a sense of how racial, social, religious, and gender relations were 
affected and transformed by the spaces these populations inhabited. In different 
ways, they point to the fact that spatial relationships are always dynamic and 
complex, especially when they involve the interaction and clash among differ- 
ent cultures. Space in the colonial context always affects individuals in multidi- 
rectional ways, no matter what their social, gender, or racial status. 

One area lacking in terms of critical approaches to space in colonial Latin 
America is the seldom studied eighteenth century, in particular, the influence of 
the Enlightenment. 7 One can argue that the hybrid character of the discursive pro- 
duction of this period has made them difficult to categorize and fit within canon- 
ical literary genres. Even the notion that the Enlightenment made its presence felt 
in the Spanish territories was not recognized until the pioneering work of Arthur 
Whitaker (1961), which was later followed by Karen Stolley (1996), Ruth Hill 
(2000, 2005), Jorge Canizares-Esguerra (2001), Diana Soto Arango and Miguel 
Angel Puig-Samper (1995, 2003) and Santiago Castro-Gomez (2005), to name 
some of the most relevant scholars. Ironically, critical volumes devoted to the 
Enlightenment as a European movement still fail to include a discussion of the 
reception of the Enlightenment in Spain as well as in Latin America, offering a 
very limited picture of the multiple ways in which the ideas of the Enlightenment 
were understood and transformed in the Hispanic world. As Castro-Gomez 
argues, in order to understand the manner in which the Enlightenment was read, 
translated, and enunciated, we need to pay attention to the specificity of location 
(2005: 15). Space and place came to constitute critical factors in discussing the 
diverse ideological movements of the Enlightenment in a modernizing world. 

C.W. Withers recently suggested that "Rather than being a fixed set of beliefs, 
the Enlightenment - as a moment and a movement - was a way of thinking criti- 
cally in and about the world" (2007: 1). Withers adds that the Enlightenment was 
not exclusively "a historical phenomenon" but also constituted "a geographical 
one" (2007: 1). It was, as he elaborates, a process that "took place in and over space 
- it had a geography, even geographies. It was also about space, about the earth, 
and its geographical variety, and about how that variety-in plants and peoples, 
cultures and climates-could be put to order" (Withers 2007: 6). Withers's argu- 
ments are extremely productive when examining the Enlightenment as a set of 
dynamic and multiple processes depending on their particular locations of enunci- 
ation. In an age when the circulation of knowledge from a transnational, continen- 
tal, and global perspective reached new dimensions in terms of how physical spaces 
were conceived as material objects of production and consumption, it makes sense 
to think about the Enlightenment in terms of space. 

In this essay, I examine how a group of Peruvian intellectuals reimagined their 
patriotic space in terms of particular ideas of the Enlightenment that circulated in 
colonial Latin America. My discussion centers on several news articles published 
in the Peruvian newspaper the Mercurio peruano in 1791-5 by a group of Creoles 
who acted as editors of this weekly text. 8 If colonial Latin America was widely 
read and understood in spatial terms from the European centers at the time, what 
I would like to propose here is a different reading of that same geography that 

Cultural production of space 177 

Europeans observe, and were trying to explain and categorize. I would like to 
focus instead on how Creoles themselves read their own spaces in dialogue 
with a national and international public. I argue that geography in particular was 
intrinsically connected to the manner in which Latin Americans understood and 
discursively produced images of their own territories for a European public. For 
them, space was conceived in patriotic and utilitarian terms, and was also a 
source of national prestige, demonstrating the intrinsic relationship which existed 
between space and power when it came to the articulation of social and cultural 
differences in a colonial setting. 

Visualizing local spaces as signs of prestige: the case of the 
Mercurio peruano, 1791-1795 

In 1790, a prospectus announcing the publication of the Mercurio peruano was 
released to the public explaining to the readers the reasons behind the creation of 
the newspaper and its ultimate goals. 9 A crucial goal for the founders of the news- 
paper was to ignore news from other parts of the world and instead focus on their 
own homeland: "What interests us the most is what happens in our Nation instead 
of what interests the Canadian, the Laplander or the Muslim." 10 As "lovers of 
public enlightenment," they paid special attention to what they deemed made 
their country unique. Disseminating that knowledge was key in their intellectual 

The editor pointed out that, when it came to Peru, there was a lack of news that 
corresponded to the greatness of a country "so favored by Nature due to its tem- 
perate Climate, and the abundance and richness of its Soil." 11 For the editor, it 
was a shame that a country so well endowed with natural resources was scarcely 
known to the rest of the world. It was precisely this lack of accurate information 
about their kingdom that motivated the founders to create the newspaper. 12 Peru 
as a geographical entity became the center of their discussion, emphasizing the 
relevance of their country's natural resources and economic potential. 

The author of the prospectus emphasizes the need to inform readers about 
Peru's history, its people, monuments, commerce, ports, agriculture, mining 
industry, fishing, and other aspects of natural history to better understand what 
made Peru such a special territory. Each piece of published news would reiter- 
ate why Peru had to be considered an enlightened nation. The challenge posed 
to themselves as "Lovers of happiness and of public enlightenment" (Amantes 
de la felicidad y de la ilustracion publica) was to put Peru in a place of inter- 
national relevance by making an international public aware of the material as 
well as intellectual richness of their country. For them, space became a pro- 
ductive tool to disseminate knowledge of their country, envisioning it, as 
Lefebvre suggests, as a "social reality" and "a set of relations and forms" 
(1998: 116). 

The first news article published in the Mercurio peruano encapsulated the 
image of Peru that the editors wanted to share with the rest of the world. The 
article, entitled "Idea general del Peru" (A General Idea of Peru), aimed to offer 

1 7 8 Mariselle Melendez 

a succinct but accurate picture of those elements that made Peru a distinctive 
space. 13 As the article points out, "the principal objective of this Newspaper as it 
was mentioned in its Prospectus, was to make this country that we live in better 
known; this country against which foreign Authors have published so many false 
statements." 14 The editors were referring to what Antonello Gerbi called "the dis- 
pute of the New World," sparked by the writings of Europeans such as Denis 
Diderot, Cornelius de Pauw, George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, William Robertson, 
Amedee Francois Frezier, and Guillaume-Thomas-Francois Raynal, who empha- 
sized "the 'weakness' or 'immaturity' of the Americas" when it came to people, 
fauna, flora, and geography in general (1993: 3). These views, as Gerbi adds, 
came from "the tendency to interpret the organic link between the living and the 
natural, the creature and its environment, as a fixed, necessary and causal rela- 
tionship" (1993: 29). For these authors, America as a continent was characterized 
by a vast but poor and hostile nature, less stable and more decadent species, 
and decrepit, lazy, and immature people. Such statements from some European 
authors who had never visited America prompted a series of responses by 
Creole and Mestizo intellectuals such as Francisco Xavier Clavigero, Juan de 
Velasco, Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo, and many contributors to Spanish 
American newspapers questioning the generalizations made with regard to Latin 
America. Within this context of this dispute, articles such as "General Idea of 
Peru" emerged. 15 

One of the major problems that the editors of the Mercurio peruano found with 
regard to the European versions of the history of Peru was the fact that they were 
guided by particular national agendas and were quite often ignorant about these 
territories. In a viceroyalty as vast as Peru, it was impossible to find accurate his- 
toriographical works that could comprehend the vastness and distinctiveness of its 
territories. 16 It was not, according to the editors, until the publication of Jorge Juan 
and Antonio de Ulloa's Relation histdrica de un viaje a la America Meridional 
(1748) that a more reliable history of Peru from an European perspective appeared. 
Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa were part of the scientific expedition that took 
place between the years 1735 and 1744 authorized by Philip V to measure the size 
and shape of the earth at the equator and to determine its oblateness. 17 This expe- 
dition constituted part of a modern scientific approach to study with precision not 
only the shape of the earth but also the nature of these territories with regard to 
fauna, flora, geography, commerce, and agriculture, among other matters. 
However, Spanish and French scientists' views of Peru did not necessarily coin- 
cide with the way in which Peruvians perceived their own country. The rationali- 
zation of that space in terms of its utility for mercantilist purposes, for economic 
and social progress, for the globalization of material goods, and for the develop- 
ment of modern scientific achievements was a key factor in the manner in which 
American territories were envisioned by Spanish Americans as well as Europeans. 

The main problem Peruvian Creoles perceived about foreigners' depictions of 
their land was that they relied on overt generalizations. It was mostly the speci- 
ficity of place which the editors wished to emphasize in their general history of 

Cultural production of space 179 

Peru. They believed it necessary to view their country through the eyes of those 
who have been immersed in its history. Indeed the editors pointed out that the 
histories, geographical treaties and compendiums, letters, and reflections that 
European writers had published offered a distorted version of Peru to the extent 
that it seemed "a complete different country from the one that their practical 
knowledge show them." 18 They found it then necessary to present the public 
"exact news accounts" of their own country, differing greatly from the news pub- 
lished by Europeans. 

Their first task was to make clear the dimensions of the viceroyalty of Peru, 
emphasizing the vast territories comprising it. It included a diverse geography 
and topography, including arid hills, large extensions of sand, voluminous 
lagoons, villages and cities surrounded by pleasant valleys, amazing mountain 
ranges, and a variety of climates. The kingdom was also endowed with a geog- 
raphy conducive to the extraction of minerals and the business of agriculture. 
With regard to the mining industry, the article emphasized that it was "the main 
and only source of riches of Peru" albeit this industry had not been exploited 
enough because the mine owners had not received the appropriate economic 
incentives from the Spanish government. 19 They argued that the mines of 
Gualgayoc and Pasco counted for half of the silver that was produced in Peru 
(Figure 11.2). With regard to agriculture, the editors complained that it had not 
been developed well. The variety of climates and topography endowed Peru with 
the possibility to cultivate a myriad of agricultural products to the extent that 
they would not need to import any item from foreign countries. However, the 
poor development of adequate transportation routes had made the circulation 
and expansion of agricultural exports almost impossible. In sum, the territories 
encompassing the viceroyalty possessed the diversity and abundance needed to 
elevate Peru into an influential position in the global market; an overall lack of 
successful development and investment had prevented its full economic poten- 
tial. In the end, Peru's natural history was an illustration of "the wonders" that 
made the kingdom fecund and unique. This fact, combined with the idea that 
"the Enlightenment was general in all Peru," producing studious, sharp, and 
well-prepared citizens, made Peru an ideal place for economic development. 

In an effort to demonstrate in more detail the potential of the country to be an 
economic power, the editors published another article entitled "Introduction to a 
Scientific Description of the Plants of Peru" (Introduction a la description cien- 
tifica de las plantas del Peru). This article served as an example of the manner in 
which the editors visualized their country and discursively produced it for the rest 
of the world. The editors complained that Peru had remained an unknown com- 
modity when it came to the richness of its flora. The variety of plants that indige- 
nous communities in the past used for medical and agricultural purposes and "so 
many utilities" (muchisimas utilidades) were barely known to Europeans and 
even to Peruvians themselves. Even the European scientific expeditions that 
reached Peru prior to 1778 were not able to capture the abundance and variety of 
plants or to order them in an intelligible manner (Figure 1 1.3). 20 It was not until 

1 80 Mariselle Melendez 

Figure 11.2 Mine of Gualgayoc as depicted by the bishop of Trujillo del Peru in his 
collection of watercolor illustrations of his diocese, 1782-5. Courtesy of 
Biblioteca del Real Palacio de Madrid. 

1778, according to them, that the expedition led by the botanist Joseph Dombey, 
Hipolito Ruiz, and Joseph Pabon revealed this issue to the public. 21 The editors 
of the Mercurio peruano, aware of the intentions of the Spanish government to 
publish the findings on Peruvian flora, declared that the publication of such a 
document would represent an "eternal monument of wisdom and magnificence," 
an "opulent treasure of the vegetal kingdom" and "the most authentic testimony" 
about Peru's natural richness not only for the abundance of precious metals but 
also for the great variety of its "exquisite plants" (1791 : 243. 75-6). According to 
them, it was imperative to share with the public the importance of this flora as it 
pertained to "the common utility" (utilidad comun) of the country. Peru, as a 
space endowed with rich flora, constituted an ideal place for a productive econ- 
omy based on its natural resources. By dividing the flora by class, categories, 
gender, families, varieties, and individuals, people were able to better order and 
control those natural resources. The article compared the vegetable kingdom to 
"a country" or to "a numerous army" that when organized was able to bring forth 
power and success. Just as a city needed to be organized in plazas, streets, and 
towns and people needed to be categorized by their social class, it was important 
also to order and categorize Peru's flora to better take advantage of its commercial 
possibilities. By following Linneaus's system of classification, Peruvians could 
understand how useful it could be for the arts, sciences, and most importantly, for 

Cultural production of space 181 

Figure 11.3 "Ficoides peruvina" and "Elichrysum Americanum" as portrayed by Louis 
Feuillee in his expedition to South America, 1709-11. Courtesy of the Rare 
Book and Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

agriculture. As the editors reiterated, with an enlightened view of Peru's botani- 
cal organization, agriculture could be improved in order "to leave behind the mis- 
erable desertion" that had been found to date. 22 They believed commerce would 
grow via cultivation of more diverse agricultural goods. Also, the field of science 
would improve by making Europeans aware of medicinal plants that were not 
found on their continent yet were beneficial for scientific progress. The catego- 
rization of plants would also help those less knowledgeable in botany to avoid 
confusion in the use of erroneous plants for specific medical purposes, as was 

1 82 Mariselle Melendez 

common at that time. They believed the study of botany represented a useful tool 
"to the benefit, enlightenment and honest pleasure of Men" (a la comodidad, ilus- 
tracion y honesto placer del Hombre: 2/44. 85). 

These articles demonstrate how this Peruvian newspaper served as a privileged 
locus of enunciation from which to disseminate knowledge about the physical 
geography of the country. For the editors of the newspaper, geographical knowl- 
edge brought recognition to the greatness of their country in terms of creating 
awareness of the natural resources waiting to be incorporated into the global 
economy. However, it was important for Peruvians, as well as the Spanish 
government, to understand Peru's full economic potential in order to take advan- 
tage of these resources. Their position corroborated that of many eighteenth- 
century intellectuals who, as Withers observes, 

understood their world to be changing as a fact of geography, and as the 
result of processes of geographical inquiry-in the shape and dimension of 
continents ... in the types of human cultures making up mankind, in the rea- 
son plants, animals, and human races were located as they were. 

(2007: 5) 

In the case of the editors of the Mercurio peruano, Peru was perceived as a 
privileged space still unknown to many Peruvians themselves and Europeans. It 
was their duty as "lovers of the country" to place Peru in the epistemological map 
of the Enlightenment by exposing its capacity to compete in a modern economy. 
Space as a useful tool to rethink their country's potential constituted a crucial 
element of the patriotic project in the Mercurio peruano. 

This patriotic project was also reflected in their representations of urban space. 
The editors of the newspaper perceived Lima, capital of the viceroyalty, as an 
enlightened city populated in its majority by illustrious men and women who were 
highly literate. 23 Lima was the source of their "patriotic love", a sentiment, that was 
displayed in the buildings and monuments that were located at the center of the city. 
In a lengthy article describing the Plaza Mayor entitled "Description of the Famous 
Fountain seen in the Plaza Mayor of this City of Lima," the editors described in 
detail the fountain, which aside from decorating and enlivening the city, also consti- 
tuted a useful object for the city and its citizens. 24 They argued that the fountain ben- 
efited the city by requiring the construction of efficient aqueducts, which enabled 
water to be made available in places that had been impossible to serve in earlier 
times. The construction of such fountains partly contributed "to perfect the science 
of the movement of waters preserving a portion of the water in a determinate place" 
(1792: 4/116. 100). The editors encouraged people to observe, examine, and analyze 
these monuments to better understand their multiple useful values that went beyond 
"a trivial" occupation of space. However, they acknowledged that, since antiquity, 
fountains also had been considered signs of opulence by nations that competed for 
social prestige and recognition. Lima's fountain was no exception. Made of copper, 
bronze, and masonry boasting exquisite moldings and intricate carvings, as well as 
beautiful glazed tiles; the fountain stood at an imposing height, and had 46 spouts. 

Cultural production of space 183 

Lima's fountain had nothing to envy to those erected in Rome, Luxembourg, 
Versailles, or Madrid. As they noted, the fountain was proof of "magnificence and 
good architectonic taste" (1792: 4/115. 9). Nevertheless, the editors made sure to 
reiterate to their readers that all citizens should also remember the fountain's value 
when it came to "public utility" (utilidad publica) (1792: 4/116. 101). For the edi- 
tors, Lima's plaza and other urban spaces such as cafes, anatomical amphitheaters, 
the university, and churches and convents constituted signs of Lima's prestige and 
proof that it was indeed an enlightened city. At a time when Bourbon reforms on 
urban policies were changing the structure of urban areas, these "lovers of the 
country" set out to publicize what they considered the value of monuments, build- 
ings, and places in the colonial capital. 25 

Nevertheless, it is important to note that rural spaces were also a high priority 
for these editors as they aimed to unveil the relevance of these territories as part 
of a more inclusive economy. Interior areas of the viceroyalty were a major con- 
cern for Spanish authorities, as illegal trades by local and foreign parties as well 
as a lack of cultural and political integration were the norm. The editors of the 
Mercurio peruano reiterated that, due to the diverse topography and climate, 
these territories abounded in potential riches, ranging from a variety of fruits, 
vegetables, herbal plants, and minerals, to the possibility of developing additional 
manufactured items based on the production of a variety of consumer goods. 

One point of contention was the idea held by many European travelers that 
indigenous people who inhabited those territories were not fully integrated into 
the colonial economy. Since it was believed that these people were occupying 
lands full of possibilities but hardly exploited, what was thought to be needed was 
a precise knowledge of the territories, an incorporation of the population into the 
economy, and a good administration of those resources. As Antonio de Ulloa and 
Jorge Juan made clear to the Spanish king in their private report known as 
Noticias secretas de America (Secret Report about America); 

All these things that Peru produces, and many other particulars found on those 
vast kingdoms and countries, which news are ignored because of lack of 
attention, could represent riches for any other nation who knew how to grant 
them the estimation that they deserved . . . nevertheless we still do not know 
how to take advantage for our own benefit, and this constitutes the essential 
reason why we do not show the riches that are produced in our Indies. 26 

As expected by the Bourbon administration, the useful knowledge of these 
interior lands would help "to consolidate political control over some of those 
strategic frontiers, secure them from Indian raiders and foreign interlopers, and 
make them more productive" (Weber 2005: 5). 

The editors of the Peruvian newspaper also considered religion a valuable tool 
for the integration of these interior lands and the indigenous habitants who popu- 
lated them into the country's economy. In a lengthy article written by Father 
Manuel Sobreviela and published in the Mercurio peruano in October 1791, the 
impetus for integrating Indians into the economy became apparent. 27 This article 

1 84 Mariselle Melendez 

was accompanied by a map that accounted for lesser-known interior territories 
within the viceroyalty. The article offered relevant information about the entrance 
of the Franciscans into the remote areas of the Peruvian Andes and their involve- 
ment in the religious conversion and social integration of the indigenous popula- 
tion that inhabited those areas. At a time in which the Bourbon administration 
was reducing the power of religious orders by privileging secular clergy to 
occupy ecclesiastical positions, this article offered not only a claim that religion 
still constituted an important tool for the integration of remote populations into 
the colonial system but also that this particular religious order was the most pre- 
pared, as it was able to successfully occupy the difficult and still unknown fringes 
of the viceroyalty. 28 As Father Manuel Sobreviela explained, "Since 1637 to the 
present, fifty-four religious men were killed in the mountains of Peru at the hands 
of infidel Indians," showing the dangers and difficulties that those who had sur- 
vived had to endure (1791: 3/80. 92). 29 

One aspect that Sobreviela, as well as the editors of the newspaper, highlighted as 
a justification for publishing the article was the inclusion of the first map ever avail- 
able of these remote areas of the viceroyalty. For Sobreviela, the importance of 
publishing the map resided in the fact that it visually conveyed to colonial authorities 
the paths needed to be taken through the mountains of these regions so they could 
reach - as the Franciscan had done - "the countless barbaric Nations" (innumerables 
Naciones barbaras) that inhabited those territories (1791: 3/80. 92). Conversely, for 
the editors of the newspaper, the map served as proof that natural and human 
resources in remote territories could potentially be controlled. The paths illustrated in 
the map also represented the troubles and difficulties that the Franciscans encoun- 
tered, leaving "their blood" as a mark at every step of the way. Although the map was 
unable to visually reproduce that blood, it did show the presence of viable mission 
communities in some of the most remote regions of the viceroyalty (Figure 1 1.4). 

The map shows a detailed and comprehensive view of the territories compris- 
ing areas located in the Andean mountains, reiterating how these lands were 
being religiously conquered. 30 The depiction of the indigenous family on the right 
side of the map offered a visual reminder of the heathen Indians (indios gentiles) 
who inhabited these areas, as the words in capital letters indicate at the center of 
the map: "Habitadas de Gentiles. Pampas del Sacramento." The family is 
depicted holding three artifacts that denoted their barbaric status. The man is 
holding an arrow and wearing his original clothing, which displayed no signs of 
European influence. Next to him, the naked child at the center is holding a bird 
by the neck, signifying his/her domination over nature. The woman is half naked, 
and ready to eat the bird they apparently had just hunted. The visual depiction of 
the indigenous family reinforced the need to integrate these inhabitants into civ- 
ilization through the vehicle of religion. For the editors of the newspaper, religion 
and the Enlightenment were not mutually exclusive as the former served as a tool 
to educate, give order, manage society, and control spaces. 31 

The material structure of the map denoted the task already achieved but also 
the one that still remained, as it differentiated the lands already converted and 
controlled from those still populated by gentiles. The human space was divided 
into three groups: (1) "land of Christian Indians," (2) "lands of converted 

Cultural production of space 185 

Figure 11.4 "Map of the courses of the rivers Huallaga and Ucayali in the Pampa of 
Sacramento," composed by Fr. Manuel Sobreviela and engraved by Joseph 
Vazquez in Lima, 1791. Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Indians," and (3) "land of heathen Indians" (see notes on the bottom left). For the 
first two groups, the cross served as a reminder of religious success. In addition, 
topography went hand in hand with the demography of the territories. The visual 
icon used to depict mountains stressed the idea of difficult and dangerous territo- 
ries they had to confront in order to integrate these Indians into civil society. The 
map emphasizes that the task was possible if headed by the appropriate persons, 
suggesting Franciscan missionaries were able to master those lands. By provid- 
ing the Spanish king with a map of these remote territories never seen before by 

1 86 Mariselle Melendez 

Europeans, Sobreviela and the editors of the newspapers unveiled for the king 
and the public the idea that what had been considered a no man's land or uncon- 
querable space was not necessarily true. The long list of rivers and their locations 
as well as the lagoons surrounding these areas conveyed the possibility of 
economic remunerations if the lands were appropriately managed and developed. 
The detailed codification of human and geographical knowledge worked as a 
rhetorical tool to communicate to Spanish authorities and the rest of the world 
with access to the newspaper 32 how these lands as well as inhabitants were not 
totally lost to the kingdom but instead could represent a viable source of eco- 
nomic exploitation. For the editors of the newspaper, in these zones, religion 
seemed to be the most useful tool to make this process possible. 

The fact that the map was addressed to Charles III emphasized the respective 
political agendas of the Franciscan missionaries as well as the members of the 
Academic Society of the Lovers of the Country. The materialization of space for 
religious and economic purposes aimed to serve as incentives for the Spanish gov- 
ernment to allow the existence of Franciscan missions in those areas. The map also 
demonstrated that these indigenous populations were not as impossible to convert 
and civilize as many European thinkers like Robertson, Raynal, and De Pauw 
thought at the time. For the editors of the newspaper, it was also important to 
emphasize the location of the Huallaga and Ucayali rivers as viable systems of 
transportation. Furthermore, the Pampa de Sacramento, or the area between the 
two rivers, constituted very fertile and diverse zones. The only obstacle to the 
development of this unique geographical region was a means of totally integrating 
the indigenous population of the east central Andes into the kingdom's economy. 

The map served as a tool to gain better knowledge of these regions and to 
exploit their potential. The publication of the map in the Peruvian newspaper con- 
stituted part of that project that, as Christian Jacob suggests, characterized any 
construction of a map: the aim of "organizing an codifying knowledge" by sym- 
bolically appropriating space for the sake of particular religious, and economic 
agendas (2002: p. xix). In this case, the map constituted as Jacob also suggests, a 
"rational construction" subject to interpretations due to its materiality or "graphic 
characteristics" (2006: 2). In Sobreviela's map, human and physical geography 
were intertwined, as the caption and the visual representation depicted. The 
Enlightenment emphasis on geographical knowledge for the purpose of under- 
standing the usefulness of space for economic gains played a major role in the 
editors' decision to publish the map, which, they thought, was a way to facilitate 
potential control of that space. The map constituted a visual discourse that facil- 
itated an epistemology of local spaces for religious purposes in the case of the 
Franciscan missionaries, as well as for economic and patriotic purposes in the 
case of the editors of the Mercurio peruano. In their effort to insert Peru into a 
more visible position, the editors found in this unpublished map a means to unveil 
the interior of the Peruvian viceroyalty to the Spanish administration and the rest 
of the world. As Jacob observes, mapping in this sense becomes 

a speculative process in which the graphic mechanism attests to the sym- 
bolic violence inherent in every model, that is, to the transformation of real 

Cultural production of space 187 

space into a figure ruled by laws of reason and abstraction, of the conquer- 
ing appropriation of reality by means of its simulacrum. 


Concluding remarks 

The Mercurio peruano reveals how space constituted a theoretical ground from 
which to think about issues that the Creole editors deemed important with regard 
to the image of Peru they wanted to share with their fellow citizens and the rest of 
the world. Their patria (homeland) was conceived in spatial terms within 
the framework of ideas that circulated at the time. Nevertheless, their reading of 
the Enlightenment was transformed by the manner in which they articulated the 
vision of their country. The stress on economic progress by maximizing resources, 
the rationalization of space as a means to take advantage of natural capital, the pro- 
duction of knowledge grounded in the utility of space, and the emphasis on put- 
ting human and physical geography in order to maximize their economic potential 
constituted parts of an Enlightenment view of the world that the editors adapted to 
their own country and needs. It was paramount to demonstrate to the rest of the 
world that Peru possessed not only the human capacity to make progress in their 
own country a true reality, but also that Peruvian territories in their topographical 
and climatic diversity constituted fertile lands, with great a abundance of mineral 
and agricultural goods and varied flora. In sum, Peru possessed all the natural 
assets needed that, if well administered and developed, would transform the 
country into a major player within the modern global economy. 

Space has always been a productive concept to examine the process of colo- 
nization in Latin America. Space, however, does not represent a new critical tool 
to study the multiple ways in which Latin America was conceived from the fif- 
teenth to the eighteenth centuries. Since the arrival of the Europeans in the 
Americas, and even in precontact societies, space has been a useful and critical 
tool to think about the transformations imposed upon the world, daily experiences, 
the manner in which human and physical geography collided, and religious, cul- 
tural, economic, and political interests. In the eighteenth century in particular, 
Enlightenment ideology as developed in science, economy, and politics made 
space a more prevalent theoretical point of reference to observe, learn, debate, cat- 
egorize, and think about the world. The sites of knowledge as well as the local cir- 
cumstances made the Enlightenment a dynamic intellectual and geographical 
movement from which to approach the world, always guided by specific situa- 
tional interests. Indeed, the emphasis on geographical knowledge at the time, as 
Withers suggests, was possible through activities such as "encountering and imag- 
ining, mapping and inscribing, envisioning and publicizing" (2007: 88). For the 
editors of the Mercurio peruano, as well as for other Spanish American intellec- 
tuals of the time, space played a key role in the manner they envisioned their coun- 
tries within a national, transnational and global perspective. The hermeneutics of 
space took a variety of forms in eighteenth-century Latin America, many of them 
still seldom explored. The need to make their own space visible and known to 

1 8 8 Mariselle Melendez 

Europeans who, living at a great distance and without traveling to those territories, 
made false generalizations about the Americas, constituted an incentive behind 
many of their debates. After all, as the editors of Mercurio peruano argued in their 
"Introduction to the Scientific Description of the Plants of Peru," it was "a specu- 
lative and exact eye" that could register and understand the totality of their 
country; a mission that they executed from a privileged and unique discursive 
space (1791: 2/43. 74). 


My deepest thanks to my research assistant, Marcos Campillo-Fenoll, for his help gath- 
ering all the visual material as well as some primary sources included in this article. 

1 As Margarita Zamora argues, this letter published with a retroactive date was a rewriting 
of the original letter with which Columbus originally had addressed the King and Queen 
dated 4 March 1493 (Zamora 1993: 9). For more information on the discrepancies 
between both letters and the reasons why the "Letter to Luis de Santangel" became the 
official document of the announcement see Zamora (1993: 9-20). 

2 The original edition was published in 1 774, in La Haye, France under the title Histoire 
philosophique et politique des etablissemens & du commerce des Europeens dans les 
deux Indes. 

3 For more information on the invention of America as a geographical entity see 
O'Gorman (1984). For a more recent discussion on this issue; see Mignolo (2005). 

4 The works of Zamora (1993), Padron (2004) and Wey Gomez (forthcoming) have 
benefited greatly from studies on cartography by focusing on how spaces are transformed 
and manipulated for ideological and imperial purposes. It is not my intention to offer a 
bibliographical summary of these critical works but rather to provide the reader a general 
idea of how literary critics dealing with the early colonial period have approached the 
phenomenon of space. For a detailed discussion on some of these works, see Arias and 
Melendez (2002: 13-17). It is also important to clarify that my discussion does not include 
the important contributions of historians who have also worked with spatial issues on 
colonial Spanish America; I am alluding only to literary scholars. 

5 See Mignolo (1995, 2000), Rabasa (1993, 2000), Arias and Melendez (2002), Pratt 
(1992), and Verdesio (2001) on this topic. 

6 For example, critical works dealing with the convent as a space deeply marked by social 
and racial differences or envisioned as a space of gender autonomy (Arenal and Shlau 
1989; Ibsen 1999; Myers 2003; Eich 2004; McKnight 1997), or studies on indigenous 
conceptualizations of space as crucial in processes of identity construction (Adorno 
1988; Castro Klaren and Millones 1990; Mignolo and Boone 1994; Lopez Baralt, 
Velazco 2003), or studies focusing on the manner in which the black population in 
colonial Spanish America was affected by the spatial control of their bodies (Eich 2004; 
Melendez 2006) constitute some of the studies that have viewed and studied particular 
spaces and places of location as productive critical tools to understand the many forms 
in which colonialism took place in colonial Spanish America. 

7 For an excellent discussion on the particularities which have made the eighteenth 
century "a literary no-man's land" as pertains to colonial Spanish America, see Stolley 
(1996: 336-74). 

8 The term "Spanish American Creoles" refers to individuals born in the Americas from 
Spanish descent. 

Cultural production of space 189 

9 The Mercurio peruano was founded by the Sociedad Academica de Amantes del Pais 
(Academic Society of Lovers of the Country), a group of young intellectual Creoles 
mainly from Lima, whose expertise ranged from medicine to commerce, science, 
geography, religion, literature, and law. The founding members of the Academic 
Society became the founders of Mercurio peruano, and according to the anonymous 
author were Hermagoras (Jose L. Egana and president of the Academic Society), 
Aristio (Jose Hipolito Unanue, the Secretary), Hesperiophilo (Jose Rossi y Rubi) and 
Homotimo (Demetrio Guasque). Cefalio (Jose Baquijano), Theaganes (Tomas 
Mendes) and Archidamo (Diego Cisneros) were also three important members of the 
Society. According to Manuel de Mendiburu, of the 30 academics who belonged to 
the Academic Society, 21 were from Lima (1890: 8. 158). All members of the 
Academic Society became active contributors of the newspaper. For biographical 
information on some of these contributors, see Mendiburu (1874). For more 
information on the archival project of the Mercurio peruano see Melendez (2006) and 
Clement (1997). 

1 0 The Spanish phrase reads "que mas nos interesa el saber lo que pasa en nuestra Nacion, 
que lo que ocupa al Canadense, al Lapon, 6 al musulmano" {Mercurio peruano 1791: 
1/1). For the Spanish citations, I will follow the original orthography from the 
facsimile edition. When quoting from the newspaper, I will cite the volume, number 
and year of the publication as well as page number. The prospectus was not numbered. 
All translations from Spanish to English are mine unless otherwise specified. I have 
tried to maintain the nature of the Spanish discourse as much as possible, sacrificing 
at times more common English grammar and expressions. 

1 1 The Spanish original says "[el Reyno peruano] tan favorecido de la naturaleza en la 
benignidad del Clima, en la opulencia del Suelo" (1791: 1/1). 

12 The editors use the name Peru to refer to the viceroyalty of Peru, which in 1791 comprised 
what is today considered today as Peru, but up to 1717 included all of South America 
except parts of Venezuela and Brazil. They also referred to it as the kingdom of Peru. 

13 Although some critics name Jose Rossi y Rubi as the author of this news article, the 
article does not list his name and it is written in a collective voice referring to the 
editors and founders of the newspaper itself. 

14 "El principal objeto de este papel Periodico, segun el anuncio que anticipo en su 
Prospecto, es hacer mas conocido el Pais que habitamos, este Pais contra el qual los 
Autores extrangeros han publicado tantos paralogismos" (1791: 1/1. 1). 

15 For a detailed discussion of this dispute see Gerbi (1993: 3-324) and Canizares- 
Esguerra (2001: 1-129). See also S. Arias in this collection. 

16 In an attempt to centralize the government to better administer these territories, two 
new viceroyalties were founded. The establishment of the Viceroyalty of Nueva 
Granada incorporated in 1717 and again in 1739 encompassed what is today 
Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama. In 1776 the Viceroyalty of La Plata was 
established, having jurisdiction over Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. 

1 7 This expedition was led by members of the French Academy of Sciences including the 
geographers and mathematicians Louis Godin, Charles de La Condamine, Pierre 
Bouguer, and other French naturalists. The expedition led to the publication of several 
accounts of the scientific adventure from the Spanish perspective (Antonio de Ulloa 
and Jorge Juan) and the French perspective (Charles de La Condamine and Pierre 
Bouguer). For more information on this expedition see Pratt (1992: 16-23). 

1 8 The original quote reads "parece un pais enteramente distinto del que nos demuestra 
el conocimiento practico" (1791: 1/1. 1). 

190 Mariselle Melendez 

19 The quote reads, "La Mineria es el principal y tal vez el unico manantial de las 
riquezas del Peru" (1791: 1/1.4). 

20 The expeditions to which the editors referred were led by Louis Feuillee, which took 
place between the years 1709-1 1 and whose observations were later published under 
the title Journal des observations physiques, mathematiques et botaniques, faites par 
ordre du roi sur les cotes orientales de I'Amerique meridionale, & aux Indes 
Occidentales. Et dans un autre voiage faite par le meme ordre a la Nouvelle Espagne, 
& aux illes de I'Amerique (1725), and the one in 1736 already mentioned in no 17. 

2 1 The expedition was organized by the French government with the aim to find and collect 
plants that could be cultivated in France. The Spanish crown gave permission with the 
condition that two of its botanists be appointed as part of the expedition and that their 
findings would be published first by the Spanish crown. The Spanish government was 
interested in this type of botanical inventory as it was a way to learn more about Peru's 
natural resources and the possibility of its exploitation. Dombey's drawings were seized 
first by British privateers as well as Spanish authorities, who prevented Dombey from 
sending the drawings to France. The drawings were later utilized by Ruiz and Pabon to 
write their Florae Peruvianae, et Chilensis (1794). Ruiz also published Relacion 
historica del viage que hizo a los Reinos del Peru y Chile (1777-8). 

22 The original quote reads "la Agricultura podra mejorarse con las luces que vamos a 
esparcir sobre ella, y salir del miserable abandono en que se halla" (2/44. 83). 

23 Of course, the editors did not hesitate to comment that cases of social deviance and 
disorder in the city had to do with repugnant celebrations held by other sectors of the 
population such as blacks and individuals of African descent. On this issue see 
Melendez (2006: 212-19). 

24 The Spanish title is "Descripcion de la famosa fuente que se ve en la Plaza mayor de esta 
Ciudad de Lima." The article was published in two different issues of the newspaper. 

25 For a discussion on some of the urban policies established by the Bourbons in the 
second half of the eighteenth century as a result of their desire to centralize colonial 
administration and as a consequence of the terrible earthquake that hit Lima in 1746, 
see Walker (2003: 54-8). 

26 The Spanish quote reads "Todas estas cosas que el Peru produce, y otras muchas que 
habra particulares en aquellos dilatados reynos y payses, cuyas notician se ignoran por 
falta de aplicacion, serian riquezas bastante para otra nacion que supiese darles la esti- 
macion que merecen . . . sino que aun no sabemos aprovecharnos de ellas para nuestro 
propio uso, y esta es la causa esencial de que entre nosotros no luzcan las riquezas que 
producen nuestras Indias" (1983: 601). Noticias secretas de America constituted a pri- 
vate report about the real economic, political, and social status of the viceroyalty of 
Peru as a result of the observations taken by Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa during 
their participation in La Condamine's expedition. The report offered an image of the 
problems confronted in the viceroyalty with regard to the treatment of the indigenous 
population, contraband, foreigner incursion in the interior lands, lack of colonial 
administration, legal corruption, abuses by ecclesiastical authorities, and inappropriate 
use of its rich natural resources. David Barry in 1826 published the report for the first 
time in England. 

27 Father Manuel Sobreviela belonged to the order of the Franciscans and was a preacher 
and guardian of the College of Santa Rosa de Ocopa, a small town in the foothills of 
the Andes where he arrived in 1785. He was from Aragon, Spain. The Franciscans 
arrived in this particular region in 1725. The title of the article is "Varias noticias 
interesantes de las entradas de los Religiosos de mi Padre San Francisco han hecho a 

Cultural production of space 191 

las Montanas del Peru, desde cada uno de los partidos confinantes en la Cordillera de 
los Andes para mayor esclarecimiento del Mapa que se da a la luz sobre el curso de 
los Rios Huallaga y Ucayali." For a complete biography on Father Sobreviela see 
M. Mendiburu, Diccionario historico biogrdfico del Peru, (1887: 7. 351-5). 

28 The goal of the Spanish crown was to secularize the missions so they could be under 
the control of the government instead of the religious orders. As David Weber 
observes, this "new method of spiritual government" meant that "mission-held 
properties were to revert to the Indians; former mission Indians would come under the 
authority of civil officials and lose the exemption from taxes, tithes, and other fees the 
missions had afforded them; the cum would be paid by tithes from Indian parishioners 
rather than by the crown" (2005: 108). 

29 The Spanish quote reads "Desde el ano 1637 y hasta el presente son 54 los Religiosos 
que han muerto en las Montanas del Peru a manos de los infieles." 

30 The specific location depicted in the map is what is considered the Cordillera Oriental 
of the Andes. Loreto surrounds it on the north, Cuzco and Junin at the south, Brazil at 
the east, and Huanuco, Pasco, and Junin at the south. Pampa del Sacramento consti- 
tutes the region between the Huallaga and Ucayali rivers, and is approximately 300 
miles long. 

3 1 For a discussion on the coexistence between Enlightenment ideas and religion in the 
case of Spain and Spanish America, see Rodriguez Garcia (2006). 

32 It is known that the Mercurio peruano reached cities such as La Paz, Quito, La 
Havana, Santa Fe de Bogota, Mexico City, Philadelphia, and countries such as Spain, 
Italy, Poland, Britain, France, Hungary, and Germany, attesting to the transnational 
and international circulation of this newspaper. For more information on this see 
Clement (1997: 72, 268). 

12 Documentary as a space of 

Luis Bunuel's Land Without Bread 
Joan Ramon Resina 

Being an extension of the eye, the movie camera presupposes the body as the 
ultimate referent of sensory experience. Like the body, the camera is both an 
object and the apparatus through which a determination of space comes to pass. 
Both body and camera center the world. Phenomenologically, the eye is both a 
fleshy organ that can be rubbed, caressed, or simply seen, and the locus of sight, 
a condition that gives rise to two conceptions of space. In the first, bodies act 
upon each other, directed by an intentionality that remains outside the arena of 
action. This space, which I call space of ocularity, can be defined as a realm of 
instrumentality. It is the space where the camera manipulates object relations 
and is in turn manipulated, i.e., resisted by the objects with which it shares this 
space. Although the distances actually covered may be great, this is, in essence, 
a space of proximity. Here objects are grasped in their momentary emergence 
into an intentional field of action organized by the interplay of time and space. 
The location of objects within such an intentionally organized intersection is 
the region. 

Things are different in the second kind of space, which I shall call the space of 
intuition. In this space, things possess all their sensorial qualities and also those 
aspects that are not sensory rigorously speaking, i.e., which belong to the thing 
without entering the field of perception. In the words of Elisabeth Stroker (1988: 
85), "It is the unity of what is perceived and what is grasped along with it that first 
grounds the conception of the 'thing' as an identity in the fluctuation of perceptual 
manifolds." What is important for my purpose is that in the space of intuition, 
things levitate, are removed from their context of action, and leave behind their 
instrumental relations to other things - which regionalize and thus contextualize 
their scope - attaining an identity through their co-presence with a subject that pro- 
vides them with continuity in their transition from one region of perception to 
another. A thing becomes self-identical when it transcends the context of its 
emergence into agency with the help of a co-present consciousness. In this con- 
sciousness 's intentionality the thing retains its historical configuration - the cir- 
cumstances of its spread in space as it came perceptually into being - even as it 
enters a future that is not yet perceived. Although the two spaces overlap in prac- 
tice, analytically they are discrete moments of consciousness. One corresponds to 
the perception of something prior that is not yet recognized (the thing has been 

Documentary as a space of intuition 193 

grasped in all its perceptual features), the other to the moment of identification. At 
this second stage the thing retains the perceived features in an intentional state of 
consciousness that mediates between the subject's past involvement in the per- 
ceptual field and the next one. 

An embodied subject centers the space of intuition, but this subject's relation 
to space is no longer of proximity, as it was in the space of ocularity, but of 
remoteness. In the space of ocularity, the body is projected toward things, the 
pragmata, which emerge within a horizon of perception defined by the senses. 
This is a space tightly knit by the eye. The space of intuition is a space of remote- 
ness, not just because of the distance between the subject and things, but because 
the former is abstracted from its immediate relation to things, withdrawn into a 
space beyond corporeality. The space of intuition hinges on the remoteness of the 
body to itself by virtue of sight. As a part of the body, the eye is an object of per- 
ception, but as the locus of sight it can never be an object. Sight's elusiveness to 
sensory appropriation is what makes vision the antechamber of abstraction, the 
turnstile, so to speak, between the bodily sphere of action and the ghostly - 
though not disembodied - realm of thought. 

For film, especially documentary, the distinction between the space of action 
and the space of intuition is paramount. To be of interest, film must suggest the 
co-presence of the viewing subject to a constellation of pragmata, of things cap- 
tured in their emergence within a web of relations. Sought, handled, acquired, 
given, stolen, or destroyed, things in film are always caught sight of at the 
moment of their appearance within a bound horizon of experience. Not aloof, like 
the spectral images of photography, filmed things exist within a context-rich 
environment, which renders them at once actual and contingent. 

At the same time, though, film presupposes the remoteness of the spectatorial 
eye from the immediacy of the interchanges that define the space of action, a 
remoteness denoted by the camera, behind which the subject hides from view, as 
if removing itself to the dark chamber of vision. The camera's presence on the 
scene of action both removes the viewing subject from the scene and implies its 
attendance. Expressed in a different way, the camera's co-presence with the prag- 
mata, its own status as a kind of doing, is the secret of cinema's trance-like power 
of revelation. Hence, comparison of the camera to the transcendental subject, 
based on its organization of data into spatiotemporal constellations, is belied by 
its emplacement among the things in the world. The camera's active implication 
permits it to function as a locative device, emplacing the spectator within the spe- 
cific co-ordinates of a given representation. At the crossroads of action and intu- 
ition, the camera is the gateway through which the viewer's intentionality relates 
not to eidetic reductions of experience but to regional space. Unlike photography, 
the movie camera cannot easily disembed its objects from the system of relations 
in which they are found, or assign them to an ontology that abstracts them from 
the conditions of visual space. 

This is why, typically, panoramic shots at the beginning of a movie gird the 
world with a horizon. Such establishing shots reproduce the kinetic feeling that 
accompanies the embodied perception of landscape. By tracing the limits of the 

194 Joan Ramon Resina 

world, they orient sight and bind it to the possibility of movement toward that 
limit. As a result, the spectator straddles the roles of sedentary voyeur lodged in 
the space of intuition and of the traveler who moves in space and time by slipping 
into the space of ocularity through identification with the eye that once stood cor- 
poreally behind the viewfinder. 

Film trades in perceptual relocations. A corollary of this observation is that 
film shares with geography the task of producing orientation in space. Perhaps 
one had better say it shares this perspective with human geography, since film 
orients by injecting cultural and ethical lineaments into the space of ocularity. 
Like medieval map-makers, modern filmmakers trace the divide between civi- 
lization and primitivism, venturing into unknown territory where monsters lurk. 
The dimming of the lights in movie theaters suggests not so much descent into 
the unconscious as alternation between day and night, that is, transition from one 
region of the earth in which people go about their ordinary business to another, 
where it is other people who go about their business while the first are at rest. One 
could say that film formalizes the emergence of the second order observer and 
that the dimming of the lights is the ritual whereby the first order observer is 
deactivated so that the second may come into play. 

Notwithstanding the idea that cinema is a projection of our unconscious desires, 
it should not be forgotten that the magical lantern illuminates a fragment of the 
world, in the sense in which medieval artists illuminated parchments and, in the 
baroque era, painters illuminated interiors with landscapes. In this respect fictional 
cinema does not differ in essence from documentary. From the point of view of visu- 
ality, it is indifferent whether cinema mimics or reproduces the pragmata within a 
given horizon. Also indifferent is whether fictionalization affects space (as in the 
adventure or exotic film), time (as in the historical or futuristic film), or both (as in 
the fantastic film, or in science fiction). What counts is that film places the eye in a 
non-participatory relation to the field of action, a move that centers the field, anchors 
its objects inside a frame of reference, and pries them loose from their contingent 
relations, at once redeeming them from perspectival fragmentation and dissolution 
in the flow of changing perceptions. But to achieve this goal, the camera must first 
enter the space of ocularity and become entangled with the objects lurking there. 

The region that film opens up to intuition is determined by the camera's co- 
presence. The fact that the motion of the camera originates elsewhere, namely in 
an off-frame pragmatic context, allows film to modify its intended region. The 
camera, in other words, negotiates the conditions of vision with objects of equal 
ontological status and yet appears to produce those very objects as if it gave birth 
to the visual world. This is film's magic, a myth that is nowhere as intense as in 
the practice of social realism. In this sense, cinema can be likened to the cave 
dwellers' attempts to reproduce the hunt on the walls of their ill-lit natural 
palaces. By removing themselves from the actual hunting grounds, those primi- 
tive illuminators transposed the space of action to a place and into a form that 
they could control. Film is a venturing forth into the world through the path of 
sight, and documentary (film's earliest expression) is an illuminated travelogue 
of that exploration. 

Documentary as a space of intuition 195 

A great deal of theory has emphasized film's artificiality, its construction 
through editing and other techniques. Semiologically, says Michael Renov (1993: 
2), there is no difference between documentary and fiction film; what distin- 
guishes them is "the differing historical status of the referent." And yet, if no for- 
mal ground allows us to distinguish between these two sorts of film, what marks 
some films as documentary and others as fictional? Viewers do not need to leave 
the cinema or look away from their TV screens to ascertain "the status of the ref- 
erent." Rather, that status appears to be a byproduct of their ability to discern the 
genre of the film they are watching. Documentary leads to the space of intuition, 
while fiction film opens onto the space of fantasy. It is familiarity with these 
experiences of space that discloses the historical, or better yet, the ontological 
status of the referent to the viewer. 

Even when critics stress film's indexicality and consider every movie a 
"document" of the thing-in-itself (Nichols 2001: 1), that is, a sort of phenomeno- 
logical schemata of an otherwise inaccessible reality, they neglect the camera's 
ability to break open the cocoon of idealism by calling forth not a phantasmago- 
ria of disembodied shapes but the traces of a presence. Film, and a fortiori docu- 
mentary, are predicated on the co-presence of a body inscribed with a visual 
orientation and of the viewers who, by sharing that orientation, become contem- 
poraries in a region of experience. 

What does it mean, then, that documentary determines a region and endows it 
with depth through the approach of the camera? In its classic age, documentary 
was an extension of the anthropological (and indeed colonial) voyage. For 
example, Flaherty returned from Alaska with a yarn about an exotic race, but the 
success of his tale was due to the illusion that an audience situated thousands of 
miles away could see Nannook through the peephole of the camera. The screen 
was the inner edge of a remote space, from which the spectator could look on 
whatever emerged within an artificial horizon. But documentary does not satisfy 
just by collecting objects for perception; its main interest lies in its ability to con- 
vert a space of ocularity into a space of intuition, surpassing the sensory modali- 
ties of apprehension and gathering a multiplicity of images into a unity of sense. 
Documentary achieves this goal by transferring a large tract of space of percep- 
tion to the narrower parameters of categorical apprehension, a move epitomized 
by the camera's outward motion toward the world and by the countermotion that 
translates the world's perceptual incommensurability into images fitted to the 
space of the theater screen. 

Documentary has certain equivalence to the task of geography inasmuch as 
both set out to create an epistemic representation of the world that is supported 
by pictures. The interlocking of film and geography can be seen to advantage in 
Luis Bunuel's Land Without Bread, a documentary that lies within a tradition of 
cultural reconnaissance. Its predecessors are the nineteenth century excursions of 
upper-class students to rural areas in search of the national spirit, which they held 
could be learned "intuitively" from direct observation of the landscape, peasants, 
their crafts, and age-old traditions. In Spain, "land-discovering" activities were 
promoted by the Institution Libre de Ensenanza, whose educational philosophy 

196 Joan Ramon Resina 

permeated the Residencia de Estudiantes, where Bunuel lived as a student. There 
is little question that Bunuel's journey to Spain's most backward region owed 
much to this tradition, although, as Jordana Mendelson (1996) has shown, it was 
also inspired by Maurice Legendre's 1 927 study Las Jurdes: Etude de geographie 
humaine, a subtitle that Bufiuel adopted for his film. "Etudier cet etrange pays 
c'est done etudier l'Espagne elle-meme," had written Legendre (Mendelson 
1996: 234), and Bunuel, in turn, lifted the region to a commentary on the charac- 
ter of Spain, a land of extreme, dramatic contrasts at the edge of European 

Las Hurdes had long been an emblem of Spain's decadence and exceptionality 
within Europe. Nineteenth-century critical journalist Mariano Jose de Larra with- 
eringly referred to his stultified contemporaries as inhabitants of Las Batuecas, a 
valley in the province of Salamanca, where Bunuel's film begins. In the summer 
of 1914, Miguel de Unamuno wandered into Las Hurdes in the company of 
Maurice Legendre and Jacques Chevalier. His account of the hiking trip prefig- 
ures Bunuel's imagery, while his insistence on the inadequacy of the scientific 
approach to Hurdano life recalls Legendre's choice of the term "human geogra- 
phy." Unamuno (1922) highlights some motifs that later reappear in the docu- 
mentary: the woody Batuecas valley where the ruins of a convent can be seen; the 
gloomy slopes and ravines in the central Hurdes; the slate-roofed stone houses 
with no openings except for a door; the fern-filled beds; the minuscule gardens 
and potato patches often destroyed by natural enemies; the tiny goats; the lack of 
bread in the Hurdano diet; the stunted, goiter-stricken people; the hellish streets 
from whose hovels occasionally the beautiful face of a small girl emerges; the 
contrast between the beauty and liveliness of the children and the decrepit, pre- 
maturely aged grown-ups; the public school teacher carrying on a civilizing 
mission against all odds, and children able, despite their misery, to read; even the 
macabre touch of human remains decomposing by the wayside with incongruous 
shreds of newspaper nearby, a surrealist tribute to Hurdano culture. And, as if to 
contradict Bufiuel, the mention of song rising from the bottom of the ravine. 

Unamuno's purpose was to show that the region's notorious backwardness was 
merely an acute instance of Castilian austerity, and thus an honor, rather than a 
dishonor, to Spain. Above all, he documents the presence of a strong cultural 
drive that is hemmed in by a hostile nature. The meagerness of the Hurdanos' 
material civilization was for him proof of their spiritual development, and their 
attachment to the land was evidence of the racial individualism that Unamuno 
placed at the heart of his cultural axiology at the time. 

Bunuel, on the contrary, implied that cultural and material deprivation go hand 
in hand and are linked to isolation and inertia. The blame is subtly shifted to the 
urban centers where Unamuno locates the foci of culture and thus the primary 
object of administrative concern, while claiming that it is useless to try to raise the 
civic level of the countryside. To critique this viewpoint at a time when the 
Spanish government seemed incapable of implementing a badly needed land 
reform was, beyond simple orientation, the primary purpose of the maps shown at 
the beginning of the film. Appearing in succession, three maps gradually approach 

Documentary as a space of intuition 197 

Figure 12.1 A regional map locating Las Hurdes. 

the space of ocularity in a geographic regression from Europe to Spain and then to 
a regional close-up locating Las Hurdes between the provincial capitals of 
Salamanca and Caceres, precisely the kind of centers that according to Unamuno 
exerted a beneficial influence on the surrounding territory (Figure 12.1). 

Land Without Bread is, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin (1969), a thistle in the 
land of liberal thinking, which is doubtless the reason why the film was banned 
by the Republican government in 1934. But the point I wish to make is not that 
documentary is always involved in persuasion, or that it is a form of poesis, or 
that this film was inspired by surrealism, or that Bunuel looked beyond the cine- 
matographic principles of the period, which, according to Hans Richter (1986: 
42), demanded "the documented fact". Rather I wish to comment on the visual 
articulation of the region that gives the film its title, or rather both of its titles, as 
if to underscore the two kinds of space that emerge from the visual continuum. 

The film is, in effect, a study in human geography, and, as soon becomes appar- 
ent, also an anthropological commentary on historical decline. The documentary 
opens not with a routine establishing shot but with a cartographic reference. 
Highlighting the immediacy of the glum to the sublime in the third, regional map, 
Bunuel is not merely underscoring a surrealist irony or denouncing a contrast 
(which might be read as a quip against Unamuno, rector of Salamanca University 

198 Joan Ramon Resina 

Figure 12.2 Mountain range of Las Hurdes. 

at that time) but suggesting the transitions implied by spatial coexistence. The pan- 
ning shot, showing a lush landscape said to encircle the valley of the damned, 
traces a conceptual horizon, which defines but in no way limits the space about to 
become visible (Figure 12.2). The camera in fact does not open the spectacle in 
medias res but enters the region from a preambular space, which functions as 
visual threshold, and represents the last post of civilization. But what civilization? 

At La Alberca, a town located nearly halfway between Salamanca and Caceres, 
the filming team stops to record the persistence of ancient superstitions and cal- 
lous rituals of manly prowess. The camera prepares us for what is to come by dis- 
playing the traces of a higher culture in the ruins of church towers and 
monasteries, from whose pinnacles the high-angle shots plummet to the ground 
to reveal the world of vermin (Figure 12.3). The visual plunge recalls at once the 
fall from paradise and the decline of a once brilliant culture, a theme over which 
nineteenth-century Spanish intellectuals agonized. One is reminded of their 
lament about Castilian decadence when Pierre Unik's voice-over informs that the 
Hurdanos lack not only the techniques of baking bread or ventilating a dwelling 
but even the essential knowledge of song. Antonio Machado's verse about ham- 
lets of "atonitos palurdos sin danzas ni canciones" (astounded churls without 
dance or song) comes to mind (1991: 102). The transitional stage of La Alberca 
links both sides of its ocular space, enfolding them into one and the same space 
of intuition. Salamanca and Las Hurdes are joined in spatial adjacency; are they 

Documentary as a space of intuition 199 

Figure 12.3 Seventeenth-century religious buildings. 

not also links in the same historical process? Was Spain's cultural decadence not 
signified by this academic redoubt of traditionalism? Was not Las Hurdes, as 
Legendre suggested, the country's spatial unconscious, now transposed by 
Bufiuel into hallucinating images of human geography? This theme appears to be 
the meaning of the film's Dantean overtones. 

A culture consisting of theology and canonical law, did it not survive in aca- 
demic vestiges as useless as the magic trinkets displayed by women in La 
Alberca? To put it cartographically, does the map mark out spatial discontinuity 
or an expanded boundary for the resolution of problems posed by perception? For 
Tom Conley(1987: 179), 

the film implies that the voice cannot be dissociated from repression of 
optical splendor. The pictogrammatical element avers to be the film's 
unconscious; it is evident, clear, and immediately accessible. When disas- 
ter or plight is reported (in the British accent of the colonizer), oblivious to 
what is being said of them, children smile at the camera. They contradict 
the anthropological project of redemption. 

Conley disengages the space of ocularity from the space of intuition, which seeks 
to unify the numerous visual fragments resulting from exceedingly short takes. It 

200 Joan Ramon Resina 

Figure 12.4 Dead donkey covered by bees. 

is true, in this sense, that the visual remains below the film's consciousness, 
which creates a surface of meaning barely detachable from colonial hermeneusis. 
But there is no redemption. The film traces a geography of death with the cool 
detachment of Dante sketching the circles of the damned. 

Is not the sense of cultural deprivation, which injects meaning into the contin- 
gent images of what we experience as human catastrophe, an effect of the geog- 
raphy first established by the map? If the musical background to the images of 
wretchedness, Brahms 's Fourth Symphony, is so disquieting, it is not because 
it represents "high culture" and "it is our culture, that of the 'educated' middle 
classes who watch the film" (Hopewell 1986: 19). Rather, it is disquieting 
because, having no naturalistic value (it does not signify "Spain"), it suggests het- 
erogeneity that is belied by the spatial transitions between the maps. 

The two most constructed sequences in the film, the donkey stung to death by 
bees (Figure 12.4) and the goat tumbling down to its death, are not merely 
instances of harsh life but illustrations of the death principle, Thanatos, that lies 
at the heart of every purpose caught in this stage of subsistence (Figure 12.5). At 
one point we see village men leave for the harvest season in Extremadura, only 
to return dejected a few days later. Other seasonal workers were faster on the 
scene, and the Hurdanos will have to wait a full year for a new chance to improve 
their families' diet. Yet what prevails is resigned attachment to a form of life 
consumed by the satisfaction of the most basic bodily requirements. Another 

Documentary as a space of intuition 201 

Figure 12.5 Falling goat. 

sequence sharpens the contradiction to the utmost. In the school, barefoot 
children learn the rudiments of culture (Figure 12.6), the same, we are told, taught 
to all children in Spain. This sense of equality is all the more perturbing in that 
the children, who look alert and lively, anticipate the preternaturally aged men 
and women who represent their fate. The literacy instilled in the school (an ideal 
of the Spanish republic) is as pointless in the face of impending death as the 
injunction to respect private property, which the rudiments of culture are meant 
to guarantee (Figure 12.7). 

The proximity of death spreads a pall of indolence over the villagers, sug- 
gesting that they are not members of a budding society but exponents of broad 
cultural decline. There are intimations that a catastrophe has befallen these 
people. Like the bee-stung donkey or the stumbling goat, the Hurdanos appear 
to have been thrown by a historical cataclysm to the bottom of their ravines, 
where even the art of agriculture is nearly forgotten in a cultural regression of 
thousands of years. 

With the theme of degeneracy organizing the visual field, we are not surprised 
by the sequence of the country dwarves or the emergence of a monster-like crea- 
ture from below the horizon. Commentators have identified an allusion to the 
Spanish tradition of painting represented by Velasquez's portraits of dwarves in 
the court of Philip IV. But the allusion is hardly an erudite reference or an 

Figure 12. 7 Calligraphy lesson. 

Documentary as a space of intuition 203 

expressionist gesture (Kinder 1993: 289). Bunuel seeks out dramatic opportuni- 
ties, but does not resort either to classic expressionist techniques or to the clash 
of shots in the tradition of montage. If this scene reveals a genealogy, it is the 
realism represented by Velasquez, namely a focused presentation of whatever 
appears in the visual field. Emphasizing the surreal backdrop (Conley 1987: 178) 
is helpful only to the extent that surrealism relied on pictorial precision to depict 
images of decay. The dead donkey on the piano in Un chien andalou (1928) and 
the rotting corpses of bishops in L'Age d'Or (1930) stick out of the flow of 
images in those films, but the static, timeless image of the putrid donkey in Las 
Hurdes pervades the entire film, as if its stench saturated every sequence. 

Surrealism was an assault on the mind through a jamming up of the senses. 
Shock results from sensory congestion. The notorious opening sequence of Un 
chien andalou relies as much on the tactile as on visual experience. Its discom- 
fort originates in the overpowering of vision by pain vicariously felt at seeing the 
razor move across the eye of the actress. Similarly, Las Hurdes depends on visu- 
ally mediated tactile experience to suggest co-presence and thus the mode of 
veracity. In an extraordinary compression of the visual field we are thrust into the 
mouth of a girl suffering from inflammation of the esophagus, so advanced, we 
are told, that she died in a matter of days. Although the camera does not capture 
her death, reporting the event with the same impotence that pervades the life of 
the Hurdanos stirs unease in the viewer. And the anxiety sticks to the image, as 
we look past the girl's bad teeth into her throat where death lurks (Figure 12.8). 
It is as if Bunuel wanted us to feel a pain the camera cannot visually convey. The 
diseased throat calls up another image of a woman suffering from goiter, so that 
intrusion into the girl's open mouth (in the film's space of ocularity) tantalizes 
with the anticipation of discovering the secret of Hurdano misery (to be resolved 
in the space of intuition). 

Anatomical convergence of the afflicted throats of girl and woman, effected by 
means of rhyming shots, might be taken for a form of dialectic reminiscent of 
montage, but this is hardly the case. The method is not opposition and contrast so 
much as resonance and the dogged pursuit of an essential leitmotif. The film's 
overpowering tactility comes from the jagged, scraggy quality of the shots them- 
selves. Conley (1987) counted 238 shots in 29 minutes of film. This yields a brisk 
rhythm, which we barely notice, however, on account of the cumulative rather 
than dialectical relation between the images, and also because each sequence 
appears complete unto itself, with the result that, as Conley puts it, "Bunuel 
forces the viewer to compress the effects of the long take into disgruntling rapid- 
ity" (1987: 177-8). As a result of speed, the viewer feels the flow of life as a stac- 
cato sequence of experiences arising from the haste of the camera. Without the 
smoothness of the long take, the film feels like ocular sandpaper. 

By stressing touch, Bunuel underscores the materiality of objects that vision 
alone would render in two-dimensional flatness. We feel the swollen thyroids on 
the woman's neck, measure the size of the dwarves against ours, and stand with 
lowered heads in the squat, turtle-like huts on the hillside. We escort the dead 
baby as it is ferried over the rustic Stygian stream by the funeral cortege. And if 

204 Joan Ramon Resina 

Figure 12.8 Filmmaker's hands holding girl's chin. 

the donkey's putrefaction and the fall of the goat are contrived, they nevertheless 
merge seamlessly with the film's recurrent theme and add to its texture. Without 
the constant reminders of death, the film would seem almost bucolic, but it is in 
the presence of finitude that we become aware that this ocular space is neither 
arbitrary nor detachable from geographic location. Buiiuel constructs the region 
as a bounded expanse of things that change position without altering the overall 
significance of the space. Even when the Hurdanos leave the region in search of 
work, we do not see them break through their narrow vital confines. We simply 
lack images of Hurdano life outside the Dantean circle of death, and cannot visu- 
ally transcend its limiting finality. Of course, what we see is only what Bunuel 
chooses to show, but his choice depends on the delimitation of a horizon which 
is not only geographic but is also the sum of things visually determined by the 
space in which they are located. 

This determining space is the space of intuition, which embraces both visual 
and co-given factors. In this space, the objects of vision are extricated from the 
relations of immediacy and alternate with what is known, presumed, or remem- 
bered. Spatiality becomes geography and geography merges with history. The 
filming team introduces not only a visual but also a temporal horizon, producing 
the shock of anachronistic contemporaneity characteristic of anthropological doc- 
umentary. From the co-presence of technology and material backwardness arises 

Documentary as a space of intuition 205 

a haunting impression of decadence. It does not stem from the relations of conti- 
guity between objects in ocular space, but from the unity obtained by these 
images in the eyes of an external witness who is also their interpreter. The 
Hurdanos, in other words, are not themselves decadent; they become a striking 
image of decadence in the particular space of human geography. 

The external witness is a cinematic function ranging from the disembodied 
voiceover to the implicit co-presence of the viewer, who adds his own "com- 
mentary" to the images in his intentional mode of participation. This witness 
processes the strictly visual data into a more complex sense formation. The con- 
trast between the naturalistic quality of the images and the dramatic soundtrack 
corresponds to the sharp transitions between shots, evoking the raw, crude life 
with which the film - itself of poor quality - wants to acquaint us. If we ask what 
is it, precisely, that Bunuel's film documents, the contrast between the bucolic 
setting and the harsh human existence comes immediately to mind. We are in the 
presence of a damned paradise and a fallen race. 

Who are the Hurdanos? Descendants, we are told, of bandits, Jews and heretics 
who fled into this remote mountains to escape the Inquisition; people trapped in 
a time warp. The historical background, rather than the immediate reality of cre- 
tinism in the space of ocularity, determines the artistic resonance between the 
scene of dwarves and paintings of similar creatures in the court of Philip IV. An 
allusion to decadence at the heart (or the throat) of an imperial giant afflicted with 
congenital deficiencies? Perspective can easily slip into causality, as we shift 
from space of ocularity to space of intuition. Thus, geographic adjacency, illus- 
trated in the cartographic preamble to the film, sets off a ripple effect. From the 
flat horizontality of the map, the camera's descent through the threshold of La 
Alberca into the ravines of Las Hurdes hints at secular decadence engulfing the 
entire region and the country. If the point of entry to the Dantean vision of abnor- 
mal development is made coextensive with the Spain of the Hapsburgs through 
shots of religious ruins from the seventeenth century, the point of exit clinches 
the overpowering sense of arrested history through the Baroque memento mori 
proclaimed by an old woman in the empty streets at nightfall. 

The camera generates ocular space by turning objects into images, but objects 
resist it, not yielding easily to manipulation. The presence of the filming team in 
Hurdano country disrupts native life, as its realism succumbs to the temptation to 
exacerbate its effects. Whether it be the cloud of smoke blowing from right of frame 
into the photogram of the stumbling goat (thus betraying the gunshot that fells the 
nimble animal), the solemn ferrying of an infant corpse over water, the "fortuitous" 
stinging to death of a beehive-laden donkey, or the extradiegetic invasion of the 
frame by the hand that holds the sickly girl's chin (Figure 12.9), a number of non- 
perceptual factors intervene that are not mere supplements to the images but wield 
agency in their production. In this way the phenomenological purity of the film is 
compromised, as is the space of intuition that gathers the multiple imprints of the 
objects in our senses into ontological unity. We simply cannot be sure of the iden- 
tity or even self-identity of what we see. Is the girl really dying? Is the donkey's 
carcass the same object we saw moving briskly a few frames back? But the gesture 

206 Joan Ramon Resina 

Figure 12.9 Sick girl amd member of filming team. 

of explicit self-referentiality, by which the camera poses as actor as well as stand- 
in for the transcendent viewer, replicates realism's highest feat. As in Velasquez's 
Meninas, it produces the illusion of mimesis and hints at the technique by which the 
illusion is crafted, while embodying the eye that grasps the scene. 


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Absolute space 64, 74-5 
Actor-networks 53, 72-3 
America(s) 5, 7, 15, 41, 110, 122-3, 

125-8, 129, 132, 135, 144, 173, 

175, 178, 188 
Anderson, B. 63, 64, 68 
Appadurai, A. 25, 58, 70, 140, 148 
Archeology 29, 31, 34 

Bachelard, G. 20, 120 

Benjamin, W. 26, 107, 197 

Berger, J. 26-7 

Black Legend 126, 135 

Body 6, 9, 19, 60, 76, 1 10, 1 14, 1 16, 1 17, 

120, 145, 164, 165, 166-8, 169, 192, 

193, 195, 
Borges, J.L. 143 
Bourdieu, P. 154 

Camera 9, 192-5, 198, 203, 205, 206 

Cao Dai 7, 170-1 

Caribbean 132, 137 

Cartesian 9, 38, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 

64, 74, 75, 76, 122, 148 
Cartography 9, 25, 38, 40-2, 43, 51, 52, 

53, 54-6, 61-2, 122, 126, 130, 132, 

134, 135, 144, 175 188 
Castells, M. 4, 20, 33, 70-2 
Catalhoyuk 7, 30-1 
Chicago School 3, 8, 18, 33, 34 
Christianity 92, 126, 158 
Cinema 7, 9, 27, 193-5,205 
Colombia 137, 144-5, 147, 154 
Colonial space 175 
Colonialism 9, 61, 126, 175, 188 
Colonization 55, 132, 149, 175, 187 
Columbus, C. 129, 130, 132, 133, 173, 188 
Commodity chains 7, 67, 72, 74 

Communism 8, 79-80, 84 
Comparative politics 16, 17, 77, 78-81, 

83, 84, 86-7 
Cosgrove, D. 1, 24, 60, 61, 62 
Creole 7, 9, 1, 127, 131, 175, 176, 

178, 187, 188 
Cross-national research 77, 80, 87 
Cyberspace 5, 25, 67, 70 

De Certeau, M. 107, 152 
Deleuze, G. 36, 40, 41, 42, 43, 52, 

53, 55, 56, 70, 75, 105, 145 
Democracy 31, 32, 77, 78, 79, 80, 

81-3, 84, 91, 100 
Derrida, J. 36 
Descartes, R. 60, 74 
De-territorialization 41 
Deutsche, R. 26 
Diaspora 146, 162, 163 
Discursive space 188 

Documentary 9, 193, 194, 195, 197, 204, 205 

Eliade, M. 148, 159, 161, 172 
Escobar, A. 37, 53 
Ethnography 25, 137, 139^10, 

144, 146, 147, 149 
Euclidean space 5, 69 
European Union (EU) 43, 45, 46, 49, 50, 

81, 82, 83, 85, 86 
Eye 9, 45,60,61,76, 145, 171, 

188, 192, 193, 194, 205,206 

Film studies 24, 27, 28 
Flaneur 107-8, 109, 112 
Fordism 65, 69 

Foucault, M. 3, 4, 18-9, 20, 21, 22, 26, 
17, 30, 33, 40, 53, 55, 64, 102, 120, 
124, 135 

Index 23 1 

Frontier 83, 132, 149, 152, 153, 183 
Fundacion Pro Sierra Nevada 9, 138, 
141-4, 149, 150, 151, 153 

Gender 102, 104, 105, 108, 161, 168, 188 
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) 

5-6, 24, 25, 38, 41, 172 
Geometry 59, 61, 106 
Giddens, A. 4, 64, 73, 99 
Global Positioning System (GPS) 25 
Globalization 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 23, 25, 40, 50, 

58, 66, 68-9, 72, 73, 91, 92, 95-9, 

105, 125, 178 
Glocal 5, 32, 69 
Gottdiener, M. 23, 99 
Graticule 61, 62 

Gregory, D. 24, 26, 59, 61, 62, 65, 67, 124 
Guattari, F. 40, 41, 43, 70, 75, 105, 145 

Habermas, J. 104 

Harley, J.B. 53, 61, 134, 144, 175 

Harvey, D. 1, 3, 20, 21, 26, 32, 57, 69, 74, 

100, 103, 104, 124 
Historicism 2, 3, 4, 10, 19, 22, 25, 26, 29, 

33, 124 

Homosexuality 8, 108, 111, 115, 117, 120 
hooks, b. 103 

Identity 2, 5, 6, 8, 11, 36, 62, 99, 103, 
104, 105, 106, 118, 122, 123, 127, 
128, 133, 148, 163, 165, 170, 188 

Internet 4, 5, 7, 38, 66-8, 70 

Jacobs, J. 30-1, 35 

Jameson, F. 6, 34, 38, 40, 52, 54, 105, 124 
Jay, M. 61,63, 76 

Kristeva, J. 103 

Landscape 3, 4, 8, 29, 30, 45, 69, 103, 

111, 116, 124, 132, 139, 140, 141, 
144-7, 155, 162, 166, 170, 172, 195 

Latin America 79, 173, 175, 176, 178, 187 

Latour, B. 53, 72^1 

Law 31, 45, 47, 64, 84, 107, 110, 111, 

112, 150 

Lefebvre, H. 3, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 32, 

37, 57, 99, 103, 124, 133, 152, 177 
Leibniz, G. 7, 59, 74, 75 
Linear perspective 62, 64 
Livingstone, D. 135, 158 
Los Angeles 7, 22-3, 29, 33, 164 

Mapping 1, 13, 16, 25, 37-43, 45, 49-54, 
60, 62, 103, 112, 122, 126, 130, 158, 
160, 166, 186 

Marijuana 137-8, 141, 150 

Marxism 3, 11, 21, 22, 24 

Massey, D. 7, 24, 26, 60, 66, 70, 73, 75, 
104, 107, 108 

Mecca 161-2, 169 

Mellaart, J. 30 

Memory 9, 13, 42, 145, 147, 148, 162, 172 

Mexico 129, 130, 132-3 

Mignolo, W. 188 

Migration 6, 38, 45, 120, 148, 

162-4, 167, 170 
Modernity 7, 59, 60, 63, 64, 66, 69, 

70, 102, 103, 105, 107, 111, 112, 

120, 121, 124, 126-7, 132, 133, 

135, 163, 171 
Modernization theory 3, 8, 17, 78, 89 
Mumford, L. 30, 63 
Munoz, J.B. 8, 122, 126, 127, 129-35 
Muslim 14, 68, 85, 119, 157, 161, 165, 

168, 171 

Naipaul, V.S. 118 

Nation-state 45, 46, 59, 60, 64-5, 68, 69, 
88, 90 

Networks 7, 16, 37, 38, 41, 44, 47, 49, 
51-2, 54, 56, 59, 60, 65-7, 69-75, 
104, 125 

New World 9, 110, 127, 129, 133, 173, 

175, 178, 187 
New York 8, 14, 43, 72, 1 12, 1 19, 163 
Newton, I. 7, 59, 74-5, 94 

O'Gorman, E. 122, 135, 175, 188 
Ocularcentrism 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 76 
Orientalism 103 

Perception 63, 122, 146, 174, 192, 193, 

194, 195, 199 
Peru 9, 129, 177-88 
Pilgrimage 9, 28, 159, 161-2 
Place 1,2, 4,5,7, 9, 13, 14, 25,37, 

41, 62, 65, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 

75, 77, 83, 90, 103, 104, 107, 

139, 140, 141, 146, 148, 159, 

160-2, 163, 169, 175, 176 
Post-communism 80, 83, 86 
Postmodernism 2, 4, 5, 23, 24, 25, 33, 

39, 59, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 

74, 93, 105 

232 Index 

Poststructuralism 1, 7, 29, 52, 53, 70, 73, 

74, 75, 76, 93, 124, 175 
Power-geometries 66, 70, 73 
Pratt, M.L. 60, 175, 189 
Printing 63 

Prostitution 8, 107, 1 10, 1 13, 
114, 117, 153 

Raynal, G. 126, 127, 128, 129, 

132, 173, 178 
Relational space 59, 60, 74-5 
Relative space 103 
Renaissance 60, 61, 62, 63, 66, 114 
Representation of landscape 145 
Resistance 7, 36, 37, 42, 44, 45, 54, 87, 

105, 146, 149 
Rhizome 43, 70 

Robertson, R. 122, 127-30, 132-3, 135 

Sacred space 154, 159, 164, 165, 168, 

169, 172 
Said, E. 25, 103 

Sexuality 8, 110, 112, 114, 115, 116 
Social Darwinism 3 

Social movements 37-8, 41, 42, 43, 48, 

52, 54, 56 
Socio-spatial dialectic 21, 22, 31, 37 
Soja, E. 2, 3, 4, 7, 11-35 
Space of flows 4, 5, 66, 67, 70-2 

Spain 9, 27, 49, 50,51, 125, 126, 
128-9, 132, 133, 176, 195, 
196, 197, 205 

Spatial diffusion 82, 83, 86 

Spatial fix 3, 64, 69 

Spatial justice 3 1-2 

Surveillance 4 1 , 42, 5 1 , 64, 1 1 0, 1 1 1 

Swyngedouw, E. 5, 69 

Telecommunications 5, 49, 66-8, 71, 73 
Teleology 103, 158 
Theology 28-9, 158, 166 
Thrift, N. 73 
Totalitarianism 91 

Unamuno, M. 196, 197 

Urban planning 20, 65 

Urban space 65, 67, 105, 107, 108, 109, 

111-2, 115, 182, 183 
Uribe, C. 153, 156 
Urry, J. 66, 90, 97, 99 
Utopian spaces 37, 40, 57 

Vision 9, 45, 60, 61, 62, 64, 76, 151, 193, 
194, 203, 204 

Withers, C. 125, 135, 176, 182, 187 
Wood, D. 38 

World Social Forum 32, 36, 43